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Why does Zimbabwe have such a high road death toll?

by Staff writer
16 Mar 2021 at 19:46hrs | Views
Road safety in Zimbabwe is such a major issue that it has attracted the attention of the United Nations. According to Zimbabwe's own numbers, around 2,000 people a year die on Zimbabwe's roads, but there have been other studies that have found this number to be significantly higher.

There are various factors that have led to such high death tolls, and each one will need to be addressed systematically in order to start bringing those numbers down. From issues with law enforcement to shockingly poor road conditions, there is so much which needs improving. In this article, we will look at the reasons behind Zimbabwe's road accident numbers and consider potential changes that can be made to help resolve the problem.

1. Poor Roads and Infrastructure

Decades of neglect and underfunding means that many of Zimbabwe's roads and other infrastructure like bridges and traffic lights are in very poor condition. Broken road surfaces, potholes, and obstacles in the road inevitably lead to more accidents. Many roads in Zimbabwe have no lights, reflectors, or markings which only increases the danger to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Following bad weather like heavy rains, the road conditions become particularly dangerous.In the capital Harare where potholes are a major issue, the number of fatal road accidents always increases in wet conditions. A national road restoration plan is already underway and improvements have been made, but there is still a long way to go.

2. Ineffective Law Enforcement

Corruption, underfunding and overstretching of law enforcement all play a major part in Zimbabwe's road death toll. Drivers who are caught speeding or driving drunk have been known to bribe officers to let them off. There are too few police officers to effectively patrol Zimbabwe's road networks and the officers that patrol are often overworked and underpaid. New recruits need to be found and effectively trained in order for law enforcement to be able to effectively police Zimbabwe's roads and help to reduce the death toll.

3. Unsafe Vehicles

In Zimbabwe, the Vehicle Inspectorate Department (VID) is solely responsible for checking whether vehicles are safe or not and for issuing driving licenses when they approve the vehicles. With so many clearly unsafe vehicles still driving on Zimbabwe's roads, the VID has been accused of taking bribes and issuing licenses for these vehicles. Part of the problem is that new cars are so expensive for many citizens of the country and so they have no choice but to drive what they can afford.

A government scheme to bring down the prices of new cars, as well as better management at the VID, could make a big difference to the accident numbers. The Director of the VID, Dr. Johannes Pedzapasi said in 2020 that measures were being taken to reduce the corruption so hopefully, these will have some effect because as can be seen below, Zimbabwe has vastly fewer vehicles than the majority of countries but a far worse road death toll. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has forced the closure of the VID so any reforms will have to wait. In the meantime, the country has to make do with what they have at the moment.

4. Poor Road Safety Education

As well as poor law enforcement and corruption at the VID, there are also issues with Zimbabwean drivers themselves as many do not have a license and have never received any driving lessons. While police officers are supposed to check licenses, they can be bribed to turn a blind eye, and so there are many ill-educated drivers on badly maintained roads. This is clearly a recipe for disaster because of the lack of road safety and the country's death toll is a testament to this fact. Far more vigilance is needed in both road safety education and driving license enforcement.

5. Inefficient Emergency Medical Services

As well as issues in law enforcement, there are also major problems with emergency medical services that are exacerbating the situation. There are too few ambulances in Zimbabwe and those that are operational face the same poor conditions as other road users. Hospitals are underfunded, and particularly outside of the capital, are in conditions that mirror the roads.

More investment from top to bottom is needed in order to bring hospitals up to scratch and to increase the number of ambulances available. The Zimbabwean government has made pledges to address both problems but with Covid-19 taking up much of the hospitals' capabilities, progress has slowed at least for now.
With so many people dying each year on Zimbabwe's roads, it is so important that the country takes the right steps to address the problem. From improving road conditions to educating drivers about safe practices, each contributing factor needs to be identified and rectified. With hard work and the right investment from the Zimbabwean government, creating safer roads for the people of the country is undoubtedly achievable.

Source - Byo24News