By Felix Tjozongoro
NAMIBIA has been ranked as number one road killer. On average we have been killing two people per day and maimed a dozen per week. Hospitals all over Namibia are full of road accident victims with fractures or spinal cord injuries. On a weekly basis, families are left without breadwinners and this adds up to the poverty challenge our Government is faced with.
In welcoming you my fellow comrade to the Transport sector, I have put together for you a five (5) topics to-do list. This are quick easy win solutions that you can implement right away and see results sooner. Thus you are able to hit the ground running.
Fix the driving school industry
Currently anyone that wants to start a driving school can do so without Government approval. This chaos was created when the Road Traffic Laws were changed and everyone that wanted to start a driving school, was required to be trained by a training school approved by the Minister of Transport. However such a school doesn’t exist and nor is the Ministry having the tools to establish such a school. Therefore that portion of the Law cannot be enforced, leaving a huge gap to anyone to do as they please.
Honorable Minister, my advice is that you immediately appoint the Automobile Association of Namibia (AA Namibia) to be such a school for a period of 2 years. The AA has adequate resources to take on this challenge on short notice. Within the said 2 years, your staff could than go out and source from existing institutions within the private sector – anyone that wants to operate such a school.
This problem has created chaos in the industry and has contributed greatly to the level of poor drivers that we have and the huge accident rate. Imagine a driving school industry that is not regulated at all. It’s total chaos.
Introduce taxi hand signals, especially in Windhoek
It is a common problem in Windhoek that taxis stop wherever and whenever as it pleases them. But they don’t easily stop at own will. Potential customers flash them down. These customers are the ones to be blamed as they stop at awkward places to flash down a taxi. Setting up taxi ranks wont work as no one will use them.
Now a simple solution to this problem is when you introduce taxi hand signals for your taxi users. This way, taxis wont need to stop randomly, just to find out which direction the customer is going to. Meaning at the end of the day, taxis would stop only to pick up a customer that is heading the direction the taxi is taking. In South Africa for example, you would find people standing next to the road with a finger in the air, or two fingers pointing to the side or three fingers pointing downwards, and so on. These are signs used by the taxi industry worldwide.
The same approach is what we need especially in Windhoek. Those going to Katutura could point a finger in the air, two fingers to the side could take you to Khomasdal, while three fingers pointing downwards could take you to Wanaheda and three fingers pointing upwards takes you to Otjomuise.
Honorable Minister, the detail and which signs to use could be left to the Taxi industry to come up with. All I am advising is for you to call them in for a meeting and give them a month to come up with a solution. Help implement it and reduce unnecessary road accidents were someone slams into a taxi that rudely stops without much warning. (Honorable Minister, despite the sudden stops and accidents, this too could be avoided if our drivers adhere to proper following distances).
Make small changes to the Traffic Laws
We have seen a number of road accidents were cars are bursting into flames. We have seen numerous pictures of such accidents and notably the number of bystanders that watch these cars burn to ashes without much help.
Please change the law and make it mandatory that every vehicle in Namibia should have a functional portable fire extinguisher. The Police can check for this at the roadblocks and if someone does not have such, such a person could be prohibited to proceed with his or her journey. At an accident scene were a vehicle burst to flame and 10 cars stops at such a scene, imagine the number of available fire extinguishers that could save lives.
Linked to car accidents is the need for 1st aid emergency kits. Once again, I would advice that we change our Laws to make it mandatory for each vehicle to have such a 1st aid kit. Once again this could become handy at accident scenes.
Ban the importation of European tyres
Another contributing factor that has been overlooked greatly by all in road safety is the tyres that we keep importing from European countries. Most of these second hand tyres that are cheaply sold to our people are designed and meant to be use in countries that have low temperatures. The heat in Africa can’t be compared to the snow in Europe. As such when these tyres are brought to Namibia, with temperatures as high as 30 degrees, they don’t last.
Unfortunately when such a tyre burst, it’s on a vehicle that is on high speed on the highway. Now that becomes a fatal mistake, which could have been prevented by our Government.
A further preventative measure is for the Namibian Police at road blocks to ensure that cars with tyres that have expired are not allowed to use our roads. Tyres by design have a lifespan of 4 years. After 4 years, its very risky to use such tyres on our roads. Why is it that we don’t allow the sale of expired food (cause its deadly), but we allow the use of expired tyres (they are deadly too).
Honorable Minister this are small measures that are easily overlooked but with major consequences for our beautiful Namibia.
Please engage your new counterpart at the Ministry of Trade and discuss how Namibia could put a stop to this importation. Also engage the Inspector General of the Police on how they could stop the use of expired tyres and tyres meant for colder countries.
Paint all taxis yellow
The taxi industry has been up in arms with fake pirate taxis that take away their business. In Windhoek, the City Police has introduced some big numbers that are printed on the doors as means of easy identification of taxis. Even the use of taxi lights seems to have been abandoned. However all these initiatives have not nipped the challenge of pirate taxis in the butt.
We should be not tired in our effort to provide a service to our citizens. Continuous thinking out of the box is what we need to win the battle. In other countries, taxis are easily identified by their colours. In London you have the black cab while New York has the yellow taxi. In our backyard, in SADC, Zambia and Angola have blue taxis.
Honorable Minister, please amend your traffic laws and introduce a colour for taxis. We could use the same blue colour like our SADC neighbours or introduce a different colour such as yellow or red.
This can be phased in via Legislation change. Amend the road traffic laws to make it mandatory for every new taxi to be painted the said colour before a taxi licence is issued. For the existing taxis, the law will give them 2 years to paint their taxis to the new prescribed colour.
Honorable Minister, as you enter your new office please consider these suggestions. They are what we call quick win solutions to problems that have been there for decades. Meetings and meetings were held with less end results. If you can introduce these 5 measures as your main targets for 2018, you would have achieved a lot for the year.
Road Safety Activist and Road Accident Investigator
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