Road safety in Uganda: Why Uganda needs comprehensive regulations for road users

It is not a road accident, it is a road crash! Many a times, we have erroneously referred to road crashes as accidents but, it is high time we acknowledge that they are indeed road crashes. Why? Road crash injuries are largely predictable, avoidable and a problem amenable to rational analysis and remedy.

However, turning around the high toll crash trajectory, will take a plethora of efforts ranging from legislation and regulating the behaviors of road users, to effective road infrastructure design and proper vehicle mechanical condition.

Having comprehensive evidenced based legislation and regulations would reduce the high cases of road crashes registered in the country. Such legislation must as well fill the gaps in the regulations for road safety that were put in place in 2004.

There is also an urgent need to align the Traffic and Road Safety (Amendment) Act 2020 with the Traffic and Road Safety Regulations. Presently, the Ministry of Transport is working on a compendium of traffic and road safety regulations. These must be comprehensive to address the gaps in the old 2004 regulations.

According to the annual crime police report of 2020, risk behavioral factors like speeding, drink driving, improper use of helmets and seatbelts as well as child restraints contributed to 12,249 road crashes compared to 12,858 cases reported in 2019.

Whereas a 4.7% reduction in number of crashes was reported, this could be largely attributed to the March to July, 2020, national lockdown and travel restrictions occasioned by Covid19, as opposed to road use behavioral change.

The Police report indicated that of crash cases registered last year, 3,269 were descried as fatal, 5,803 were serious while 3,177 were minor.

Unfortunately, drink driving remains the leading risk behavior accelerating road crashes in Uganda. A study by Biribawa Claire on the pre-injury alcohol use and road traffic injury among patients at Mulago hospital in Kampala, indicated that 29.7% of the respondents had used alcohol before the road traffic injury event.

This means that Breath Alcohol Content among those that tested positive using the Breathalyzer was 0.05%.

Biribawa’s study suggests that the current 0.08mg/100ml prescribed in the alcohol regulations has to be reduced to at least 0.05mg/100ml for the general population, 0.02mg/100ml for young and novice drivers and 0.00mg/100 for commercial drivers.

The aforementioned figures are also the recommended alcohol limits by international standards that our policies and legal framework should take into account.

Other risk factors include high speeding, a great killer especially on high ways and in high built-up areas. Currently, the 2004 regulations set the speed limit at 50 km/h for urban centres and high built-up areas but a speed limit of 30 km/h should be considered for roads in school zones and high built-up areas.

This is because such roads have high pedestrian movements along and across the road, and no adequate pedestrian segregation.

The Traffic and Road Safety regulations should make it mandatory for all motorcycle riders and their passengers to use helmets and set standards that match the global standards for helmets. The same standards should apply for use of seatbelts and child restraint among motor vehicle drivers and passengers.

Whereas there is a regulation that guides the use of seatbelts, there is no law or regulations guiding use of child restraints for child passengers. An impassioned appeal should be made to legislators and the transport ministry to make laws and regulations that ensure child passengers are sage while using the road.

With comprehensive road safety regulations and behavioural change, most of the road crashes would be preventable and the severity of injuries would reduce in case a crash occurs. This is why we should change.