This year is turning out to be the most dangerous for Malawi road users as accidents and deaths in the first half of the year have risen by 23 percent and 12 percent, respectively, compared to the same period last year.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera confirmed in an interview yesterday that between January and June this year, the country has recorded 5 990 accidents against 4 860 registered during the same period last year.
Of this year’s accidents, 636 were fatal and claimed 720 lives, a 12 percent rise from 2020 which recorded 570 fatal road accidents that claimed 616 lives.
Kadadzera revealed that sedans, mostly those operating as taxis, were involved in nearly half of the accidents with minibuses trailed with 11 percent of all the accidents.
He said: “Forty-nine percent of road accidents involved saloons used as taxis which are mostly in a rush to pick as many passengers as possible, thereby becoming more susceptible to accidents.”
The accidents in the first half of the year left 3 846 people with minor and serious injuries, the police records show. In contrast, within the same period last year, 3 313 sustained various degrees of injuries.
On factors contributing to the accidents, over-speeding ranks highly with 2 010 accidents, tail-gating–or keeping too close–was second with 710 accidents attributed to that cause. Others factors include ignoring road traffic signs, careless overtaking and reversing negligently.
The police spokesperson said the 4 860 accidents recorded last year were a slight drop from the 4 900 accidents registered in 2019.
Malawi has over the past decade registered a steady increase in road accidents, a development which prompted the Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Public Works to summon the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS) to discuss causes and solutions.
In an interview yesterday, Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Public Works chairperson Uchizgi Mkandawire expressed shock with the continued rise in road accidents.
He said: “Next month, we are having quarterly meetings. Our committee plans to meet the DRTSS officials so that they give a report why we have these accidents.
“We know that some accidents are a result of bad road conditions and personal behaviours.”
In a separate interview, DRTSS spokesperson Angellina Makwecha said they are putting in place measures to tackle road accidents.
She said: “We have intensified day and night traffic law enforcement and surveillance services. Additionally, we have enhanced awareness and sensitisation campaigns targeting all road users. This is being done through mainstream media outlets. We are also conducting road safety awareness meetings in various communities.”
Meanwhile, traffic safety specialist Chifwede Hara has called on authorities to introduce comprehensive road user education if they are to reduce accidents.
He said in an interview that most road accidents are caused due to human error.
Said Hara: “This has been proven by studies world over, and Malawi is no exception. What we need, therefore, is to thoroughly educate all road users–from pedestrians and drivers to cyclists–on how to follow the regulations.
During Africa Road Safety Day commemorations last November, Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works Nancy Chaola Mdooko said it is worrying that the road accidents trend shows that those losing their lives are within the age range of 25 to 44 years.
She said: “This is very worrisome considering that this age group is for economically active members of society who could have been contributing to the economic development of the nation.”
Mdooko said government in 2014 undertook a road safety assessment of the country’s roads to identify general road safety problems. She said the study identified 70 black spots, with roadside markets dominating the danger spots.
She said the ministry through the Roads Authority (RA) was addressing some of the black spots by putting in place accident mitigation measures such as controlling access into roadways by erecting barriers, speed regulating facilities such as speed humps rumble strips and preserving road reserves by demolishing illegal developments.
DRTSS deputy director Annie Kandoje said besides drivers, other road users such as pedestrians and business people have also been contributing to most road accidents.
The directorate estimates that road accidents are the ninth leading cause of deaths across all age groups, accounting for 1.35 million lives worldwide annually.
It is also estimated that 90 percent of road traffic deaths and injuries occur in low and middle income countries, yet such countries only account for 54 percent of the worlds registered vehicles.