BY MARKO TAIBOT
ADJUMANI: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 03, 2021
Michael Koma Kenyi, a refugee from Pagirinya refugee settlement, is among the many road crash victims recovering at Adjumani hospital.
Kenyi, a father of six, joined the bodaboda (motor cycle taxi) industry as his source of livelihood to supplement his food ration early this year when further reduction in food ration was announced by the World Food Program.
On November 7, 2021, he carried a passenger to Nyumanzi refugee settlement about 8 kilometers (km) away.
He left Pagirinya at 6:00 pm, and after successfully dropping his passenger, Kenyi met his misfortune during his return trip, his second road accident in ten years.
However the 2011 crash in Nimule, a border town in South Sudan was not as severe as this at Dzaipi.
At 7:30 pm before Dzaipi trading center, he lost the lights of his motorcycle but instead of going to fix them at a garage, he chose to improvise light with a torch.
Kenyi says he narrowly missed crashing into a pedestrian and swerved to the roadside where upon he fell off the motorcycle, injuring his head and the back.
“Because my torch was dim, when I realized that I was going to knock the pedestrian, I applied brakes so abruptly and I failed to control the motorcycle” he recalls of the incident.
Currently Kenyi is unable to sit on his own or pass urine. He has been connected to tubes and the doctors say that he needs an x-ray scan to examine the damages in his thoracic region.
His ordeal is one of the several cases of road accidents that led to the death of 92 people in 2020 and 129 people between January and September 2021 according to information from Adjumani district health department.
The department recorded a total of 2,826 people treated of injuries from road crashes last year and 1,666 people in the first nine months of 2021.
The data shows that pedestrians, bicycle riders and motorcyclists are more vulnerable to road crashes compared to other road users.
Globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that road crashes cause nearly 1.3 million preventable deaths and estimated 50 million injuries each year, making it the leading killer of children and young people worldwide.
As a result the United Nations general assembly resolution A/RES/74/299 declared a decade of action for road safety 2021-2030 with the target to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries by at least 50%.
In Adjumani districts, medics blame most of the crashes on reckless riding, drunk driving, poor mechanical conditions of the vehicles and motorcycles and the bad roads.
According to section 108 of the amended traffic and road safety act 2020 of Uganda, a person who causes bodily injury or death through reckless driving of motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment not exceeding ten years.
It adds that a person who causes bodily injury through reckless driving of motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred currency points or imprisonment not exceeding three years or both.
The same act defines reckless driving to mean, disregard for rules of the road or driving without proper caution and includes driving over prescribed speed limit, failing to use signals, disobeying traffic signs and signals.
The others are driving into another lane, using a hand held mobile phone while driving, driving on a public road without due care and attention or reasonable consideration for other persons using the road and driving while under the influence of drinks and drugs.
But the police in Adjumani say that few road accidents are reported to them as victims tend to settle matters with riders without police involvement.
Their records show that from January to September 2021 road crashes reported and recorded at police were 54 with seven fatalities and 76 injuries.
Of those reported cases, 26 involved motorcyclist, two were bicycle riders, one pedestrian and one baby while the rest were vehicle users.
Sam Odong, the police officer in-charge of traffic in Adjumani district, explains that pedestrians and cyclists are prone to road crashes due to over speeding, poor adherence to use of helmet, and drunk driving. He estimates that these causes account for 90% of the road accidents.
He also identified lack of training to ride motorcycles as another serious factor, noting that majority of the riders on the road do not have driving permits.
Some pedestrians, he added, become vulnerable because they do not walk where pedestrians should walk but they walk where cyclists are supposed to ride and vice versa.
Joyce Madrara, a survivor of a road crash in 2019, said she and the motorcyclist were knocked by a speeding vehicle with registration number UBS 943 when they had stopped to allow the vehicle to pass due to a narrow road.
She broke both legs and had to be transferred from Adjumani hospital to Mulago national referral hospital for specialized care.
The doctors initially recommended amputating her legs before changing their mind to support bones using artificial gadgets.
“My appeal to road users like drivers and motorists is that they should be mindful of other road users like pedestrians, especially children and persons with disability,” said Madrara.
“I now fear motorcycles, and I fear moving on roads because of the way people use the roads,” she added.
Marcelino Rubahamya, the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) manager for western Uganda, acknowledges that although they have put road signs on all tarmac roads, gravel roads lack road signs.
He says even then, the road signs are frequently stolen by people and sold as metal scrap while on gravel roads communities attempt to create humps with soil in places where none is needed, leading to accidents.
Rubahamya underscored the need for road discipline and emphasized that motorcyclists need to undergo formal training to reduce road crashes.
However, he says the mandate to conduct road safety training has been shifted to the ministry of works and transport, leaving UNRA with only the responsibility to construct and grade roads.
Jimmy Adwek, the regional UNRA branch manager for northern Uganda, observed that on gravel or earth roads, riders and drivers raise a lot of dust which causes poor visibility for all road users.
“Most Ugandans do not follow road signs especially speed limits. For example on paved roads where they have put a speed limit of 100 Km per hour, some users drive at speeds beyond that limit,” he said.
Adwek acknowledged that UNRA sometimes faces challenges of maintaining some of the roads which become impassable and may cause road crashes.
He said crashes on bad roads could be minimized when road users are disciplined and cautious while using the roads.
Edward Gift Drici, the branch manager Uganda Red Cross Society in Adjumani, stated that the organisation is preparing to train bodabodas and other pedestrians on basic first aid skills because some of the minor injuries could be managed before referring them to a health facility.
Drici recommended road safety talks with bodbodas, pedestrians and other road users to mitigate road crashes.