By Jeffrey Muvundusi
Official statistics show that most of the traffic road accidents recorded in Zimbabwe have been due to human error.
Despite commendable efforts by various players including the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) and the police, to reduce the carnage on our roads, human error remains the dominant factor in ruthlessly ending precious lives on the roads.
Lately, Zimbabwe has been hit by a spate of road traffic accidents — a development that has shaken many to the core over what has suddenly befell the nation.
One such example is the early November 2018, horrific accident in which 46 people were killed, leaving 70 others seriously injured when two buses collied at the 166-kilometre peg along the Harare-Mutare highway.
The accident which involved two buses, Bolt Cutter and Smart Express saw government declaring it a national disaster.
The driver of the Smart Express bus reportedly tried to overtake a haulage truck and two other vehicles in the process encroaching into the lane of the oncoming bus, resulting in the head-on collision.
Although night driving, bad roads, stray animals, decrepit vehicles and poor vehicle maintenance have been cited as some of the major causes of the numerous casualties on the country’s roads, the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) says at least 90 percent of road traffic accidents are as a result of human error.
Use of cell phones while driving, failure to give way, speeding, misjudgment, over-taking and reversing errors, following too close, fatigue and negligent pedestrians or cyclists have stood up as common mistakes.
With human error consistently pegged above 90 percent it is a major cause for concern which raises the need for defensive driving licence to be made compulsory by the government.
According, to a critical analysis of the 2017-2018 festive season, fatal road traffic crashes in Zimbabwe released in April 2018 put together by TSCZ Information communication and technology manager Tatenda Chinoda highlights the importance of defensive driving course.
“In terms of vehicles involved, private vehicles contributed 70.1 percent while Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) contributed 18.4 percent,” Chinoda said.
“The remainder of 11.6 percent was unknown due to the fact that these were hit-and-run cases. In terms of the Defensive Driving Course (DDC) up-take, of the 147 drivers involved in these fatalities, only 2.7 percent had evidence that they trained in DDC.
“The total number of drivers who were caught driving without licenses was 76 (51.70 percent). Speeding contributed to the occurrences of most of the crashes while the 25-45 years age group of road users appears to be the worst affected by the road injury pandemic,” he said.
The TSCZ offers an internationally recognised defensive driving course as a part of its Driver Improvement Programme.
It is however, a legal requirement that all drivers of PSVs as per S.I. 168 of 2006 have a valid defensive driving certificate issued by the council.
This has however left a gap on those who drive private vehicles who happen to be the majority as they have been mostly the ones found wanting with regards to causing horrible traffic accidents.
This is even contained in the TSCZ 2016 road traffic crash analysis report, where it’s clearly indicated that more private vehicles drivers are being involved in fatal crashes than public vehicles, which however justifies the call for all drivers to undergo compulsory training in defensive driving.
The council’s driver improvement programme has the defensive driving course, a vision test, a road assessment and a course for drivers of heavy goods vehicles among others.
According to Chinoda, the aim of the course is to humanise driving by developing a holistic driver in terms of the affective, cognitive and psychomotor domains.
“Most drivers simply train in skills domain leaving the much needed affective and cognitive domains which underscore the need for courtesy, consideration and ubuntu /unhu whenever interacting with other road users,” he said.
Last year TSCZ embarked on an aggressive marketing drive to ensure that every motorist undergoes defensive driving. This included visiting churches and public gatherings spreading the need for every motorist to be trained in defensive driving.
According to the TSCZ, the principal agent in promoting traffic safety in the country, an average of 1 800 people are killed on Zimbabwean roads annually while 30 000 others are injured.
Loosely broken down, these figures to some extent mean that about five people die every day on our roads and 38 others are injured daily.
Many families have been left without bread winners as a result of the road accidents scourge. A haulage truck driver, Timothy Muswere, admitted that defensive driving should be compulsory.
“I travel most parts of the country and sometimes beyond our borders. From my 13 years of experience as a driver I have learnt the importance of defensive driving.” — DailyNews