Sunday, 7th February marked another anniversary since the Chibombo road disaster that claimed over 51 lives. Two years ago, a bus was travelling from Ndola to Lusaka when it crashed in the early morning killing girls, boys, mothers and fathers to become one of the worst road crashes in the history of Zambia.
Road crashes are on the increase and still cause some 2,000 deaths and 32,700 injuries in Zambia each year. And by 2020, since 2010, over 20,000 lives will perish if the current trends and attitudes persist in the country.
Involvement in road accidents is one of the three leading causes of death and hospital admission for Zambians just behind HIV/AIDS and malaria, but also a leading cause of death for young people.
According to statistics analysed by the Zambia Road Safety Trust, on average, one person is killed every four hours on Zambian roads, six to seven people die on a single day and about 140 people lose their lives in a month.
The UK road safety Charity Road Peace declares that Road deaths are not normal deaths. They are unnatural and untimely. No minute of silence, no front page coverage or life story published in the press. No meeting with senior police or politicians who promise to do all in their power to ensure justice is done and that lessons are learnt. Instead the family’s bereavement is aggravated by the death being: sudden, violent, unnecessary, frequent, premature and tolerated.
While information on road traffic fatalities is available, there is no systematic information which can be compared on the health of survivors/injured victims. There are a variety of definitions of ‘serious injury’. Many serious injuries are not reported and data on the long term health consequences of road traffic injury is not collected on a systematic basis.
The World Health Organization uses a severity ratio guideline of 15 serious injuries (requiring hospital admission) and 70 minor injuries for every road death. Disability is usually defined as an individual’s inability to carry out a normal range of daily activities due to physical and/or psychological trauma.
Permanent disability, such as loss of eyesight, or brain damage, can deprive an individual of the ability to achieve even minor goals and result in dependence on others for economic support and routine physical care.
Less serious – but more common – injuries to ankles, knees and the cervical spine can result in chronic physical pain and limit an injured person’s physical activity for long periods.
Serious burns, contusions and lacerations can lead to emotional trauma associated with permanent disfigurement. Road crashes can also result in a variety of long-term psychiatric and psycho-social problems.
On its part, the Zambia Road Safety Trust has continued not only to advocate for road victims with their families but also raise awareness on road safety in our country. Working with Puma Energy Zambia Plc, Puma Energy Foundation and Amend we continue to improve children’s road sense through our road safety education measures in primary schools directed at pupils and teachers. So far, over 20,000 children in Lusaka have benefited from this initiative which will be extended to copperbelt this year.
Through our strategic plan for 2020, we will be developing materials for parents. We will encourage greater use of safe routes to primary school by children. We hope to ensure that most pupils will know the safest pedestrian route from where they live to their new school.
Road safety is also a major concern for adults. Companies should have policies to protect their staff and others from dangers on the road. Companies can introduce in their work places proactive safety cultures.
Research has shown that companies with more proactive safety cultures management commitment, combined with shared safety values have fewer safety incidences and crashes among the workforce. The influence of the corporate safety culture can extend beyond the workplace, with the community benefiting from proactive safety management in the workplace.
Corporate influence can flow into the community via other forms of business practice including strategically planning road network use by time of day, routes, vehicle volume on any road at any given time, and time spent on the road per driver per day (fatigue management).
High safety standards promoted by one business can influence the required standards of other business partners within the community.
Road traffic accidents do not have a single cause. They result from a number of contributory factors that combine in a way that leads to a road user failing to cope in a particular situation. Road safety practice is a proactive attempt to identify the contributory factors that lead to road accidents, understand how they inter-relate and how they can be modified and prevented, to produce a safer environment and safer road users.
Teachers play a vital role in delivering road safety education to pupils. Parents also have a crucial role to play in their children’s road safety education and training, one which can be both positive and negative depending upon parental attitudes to road safety. For example, if a parent drives without a seatbelt, this can also affect the child’s road safety attitude. Drivers’ associations can all be powerful tools that can get road safety messages across.
We all have to die someday but it is when and how that differs – road death comes too early and its violent and unacceptable. The worst fate for a parent is having to bury their child, but this is what happens with two out of six road deaths in Zambia every day.
Because of this, we should not forget about chibombo!