Police have recorded 67 road accidents and 16 deaths on Christmas Day, an increase from last year’s 38 accidents and five deaths, representing a 43.2 percent and 68.7 percent increase, respectively.
In a telephone interview yesterday, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera attributed the rise in road accidents to motorcycle taxi operators commonly known as kabaza that have been plying the country’s roads without observing road safety rules.
He said: “We have observed that most of the accidents are happening during the night. It is worrisome when you look at how these numbers have gone up.
“There is need for everyone to take full responsibility to ensure that there is sanity on the country’s roads during the festive season because as police, we cannot be everywhere at once.”
Kadadzera said it is important that drivers should also comply with road safety rules, having observed that most of them are failing to observe them.
However, the National Police spokesperson said the law enforcers will continue conducting traffic checks and mounting roadblocks on the country’s roads throughout the festive season to ensure that accidents are minimised.
Asked what has contributed to increased road accidents this year, Kadadzera said: “Half of the accidents involved motorcycle taxi operators. They have contributed highly to the road accidents as opposed to motor vehicles.”
He said police will continue being strict with the kabaza operators and impounding those that do not have licences as they have been doing.
Last week, Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda reveled that data from the ministry indicates that from January this year, 860 people died in road accidents involving kabaza operators nationwide.
Speaking during a media briefing on Thursday, the minister said government is engaging with the motorcycle taxi operators to acquire formal driving training and also help them follow road safety regulations.
Chimwendo Banda, who was accompanied by Inspector General of Police George Kainja, said government had noted with concern that most kabaza operators do not follow road safety measures such as the wearing of crash helmets and observing passenger capacity, adding this may lead to an increase in the number of deaths by December 31 2020.
Said the minister: “We are engaging them, but the challenge is that they have about 12 associations. So, today you agree something with this association and another one decides to take to the streets.
“But we are trying to raise awareness to have them adhere to road safety measures.”
The reported figure means that about 72 lives are lost every month in such accidents, translating to two daily. This is also about 35 percent of deaths caused by road accidents as recorded in 2017 and 77 percent of road accident deaths reported in 2016.
Besides the kabaza operators, an investigation that Nation Publications Limited conducted in 2017 established that loopholes and corruption at the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS) also worsen road traffic accidents.
The investigation established that unqualified people are able to get drivers’ licences while unroadworthy vehicles ply the country’s roads using counterfeit permits or certificates of fitness dubiously issued for vehicles not examined.
In July 2018, data The Nation sourced from police showed that the number of road traffic accidents almost tripled over the past five years, killing about 1 300 people annually.
Globally, road accidents are estimated to kill 1.25 million people and injure 50 million annually.