SPEEDING is a costly exciting adventure, especially for inept drivers that continues to claim innocent lives in the country.
It is unfortunate that the safety of road users on Tanzanian roads is compromised by inept drivers and excessive speeding which are the biggest contributors to fatal crashes, while on the other hand are among leading road safety risk factors.
According to Traffic Police statement on the Status of Road Safety in Tanzania presented at a stakeholders’ meeting in Dodoma, speed is the main cause of four out of eleven most fatal vehicle crashes, which were responsible for 146 deaths, recorded between November 23, 2017 and September 7, 2018.
Whilst the other reasons given by the police included defective vehicles (three accidents) and reckless driving (four accidents), speeding apparently increased the fatality rate during the crashes.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), excessive speed plays a role in about half of road deaths in low and middle-income countries.
While many drivers, especially young drivers, may find higher speed limits convenient and even fun, but experts say that the faster a vehicle travels, the harder it is to stop or control, particularly when the driver faces an emergency situation that calls for swift action.
Head of Legal Department at the Traffic Headquarters, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Deus Sokoni, says the severity of a crash increases with speed and he explains that crash avoidance is more difficult at high speed because of the longer distance traveled during reaction time, the longer distance required to stop and the greater difficulty of controlling a vehicle at high speed.
“If you drive at a high speed, you might not be able to stop. With a reaction time of one second, it will take the average driver driving at 110km/h about 90m to come to a stop on a dry surface,” says ASP Sokoni.
“A car travelling at 50km/h takes 28 meters to stop, whereas a vehicle driven at 90 km/h takes 70m to stop,” he adds, noting that a pedestrian has less than a 20 per cent chance of dying if struck by a car at less than 50km/h.
On the other hand, he says, a pedestrian has almost 60 per cent risk of dying if hit at 80km/h, which is the maximum speed allowed by law for passenger vehicles and those exceeding 3.5 tonnes in Tanzania.
Speed also increases the chances of severe injuries and deaths for the occupants of the car, whereas the likelihood of death at a collision speed of 80km/h is said to be 20 times higher than at an impact speed of 32 km/h.
“The effectiveness of safety devices such as air bags and safety belts is severely compromised at high speed,” adds Mr Sokoni.
Apparently, the other problem lies in the amateurish driving, loopholes in the issuance of driving licences and weaknesses in the road traffic laws.
Evidences show that a good number of motorists in the country have neither attended a driving school nor obtained licences through proper channels.
According to ASP Sokoni, over 1,218 drivers were nabbed in various places driving vehicles without driving licences. On the other hand, 1,953 drivers were found with invalid/ expired licences while 268 lacked driving certificates from driving schools, implying that they had never attended any driving school.
A special operation by the traffic police department last year resulted in the closure of 17 driving schools as they failed to meet the required standards.
A random investigation by the ‘Daily News’, on the other hand established that a good number of Tanzanians are driving on highways having informally learned how to drive on the streets, thus, they lack proper driving skills.
Albert Majaliwa, 29, is one of those who practiced driving on the streets under the guidance of a friend. “I was trained by a friend of mine; we started on the street for two days and on the third I got onto the wheel on one of the major roads,” says Majaliwa.
He admits to have been involved in a number of crashes as a driver and remains grateful to Almighty God, in all occasions he avoided life-threatening injuries.
“I remember only once I had to go to hospital, as a result of a minor crash with a bodaboda rider. Soon after the incident, a mob of bodaboda riders started furiously chasing after me, as I pressed the gas pedal hard enough.
“I ended hitting a stone as I crossed streets leading to my residence and the vehicle overturned. Upon seeing the incident, the motorcyclists rode away. I suffered minor cuts, but there was nothing much more serious,” he narrates one of his ordeals on the road.
“I was trained by my husband, we used to go to the playing grounds where he would teach me the driving techniques for one to two hours. After a while, I started driving on my own,” says Rosemary Gabriel.
She refuses to reveal how she obtained her driving licence thereafter.
That is a common practice among motorists in Tanzania, says a 48-year old Said Omary, a mechanic in Dar es Salaam. “Quite a good number of our customers who seek services at our garage have no or little knowledge of cars, they don’t know the simple basics that every driver is required to have,” says Mr Omary.
Chairperson of Safespeed Foundation, Mr Henry Bantu, says failure to abide by driving training requirements contributes massively to road crashes in the country.
He says that before motorists are allowed to drive on public roads, they are required to put in a certain threshold of training hours and to meet certain minimum requirements.
However, that is not always the case in Tanzania as the majority of aspiring drivers often do not abide by these safety driving guidelines.
“We have many poorly trained drivers with little experience on our roads and that is a big road safety problem,” admits Mr Bantu, a former tutor at National Institute of Transport.
He says driving involves utilising both mental and physical skills for the aspiring driver to be a smooth, safe and competent when he/she sits behind the wheel. Mr Bantu warns that there is no substitute for proper training and calls upon relevant authorities to pay due attention to driving training, especially putting in place one curriculum for driving schools. He says drivers must speak one language when sharing the road but that is almost impossible for drivers who receive different types of driving lessons.
Bantu says inadequate or incorrect formative driver training may lead to bad driving habits that can lead to crashes.
Such bad habits include poor awareness, lack of concentration (distracted driving) and poor physical skills such as holding the steering wheel incorrectly, riding, slipping or coasting the clutch, clutching before braking, harsh steering, harsh braking and harsh acceleration.