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Opinions of Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Columnist: Nkendem Forbinake

Road safety and novel solutions

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Again tragedy struck a few days ago on the Bafoussam-Yaounde highway when an « opep » carrying some six passengers went into a head-on collision with a mass transport bus resulting in the death of five people on the spot at the Banekane area near Bangangté.

From recent history of road accidents, this was simply another on a long list of other accidents with similar magnitude in spite of several initiatives to hold down this rather unbecoming rise in the incidence of road mishaps in the country.

The fact that this heavy deadly accident did not summon any special national attention probably explains the fact that ordinary citizens are already getting all too familiar with the numerous initiatives being taken either by the Ministry of Transport or the national Gendarmerie to reduce the incidence of road accidents in the country.

From a close look, many of these initiatives, sometimes radical as they are, have not been able to greatly impact any meaningful change in attitudes.

Otherwise, one cannot understand the fact that some of the most dangerous parts of our highways known for repeated accidents, continue to be the scenes of the same kinds of mishap and generally for the same reasons which often range from overloading, driver carelessness or the poor condition of the road.

A few days ago the Banekané incident was happening virtually at the same time there was a very active control at Atok, on the Yaounde-Bertoua highway meant to dissuade drivers from habits that could hamper safe road usage practices.

These unannounced road checks have usually produced extraordinary results by way of sensitizing road users. But quite often, it is for the spur of the moment, as most of the road users get back to their villainous habits once out of the reach of these road controllers.

One cannot ignore the fact that government is spending a lot of taxpayers’ money in the effort to get some form of sanity on the nation’s roads, even if only seen from the number of high-level security officials, sometimes including officials as high as general officers of the Cameroonian armed forces, to ensure that the situation is improved.

But a close observation of the results obtained requires a courageous re-evaluation of the techniques used so far in bringing about a marked reduction in the incidence of road accidents in the country. Why? Most of the recently documented accidents have been circumscribed to the areas where controls have been most intensive. Why then is there no improvement in the situation?

Many people have suggested that other un-visited areas such as the state of our roads – said to be equally responsible for the numerous accidents registered – should be more adequately addressed because, as observed in many technical reports, neglect by way of repair is also very evident.

We cannot continue to sit idly and see our own human type continue to die in circumstances which could have been averted. We cannot at the same time remain hostages to the ineffectiveness of current measures being taken to stem the rising tide of road accidents. How do we stop the recurrence of repeated announcements on national radio about deaths?

We believe it is about time government take novel measures which could even include not only ensuring that the quality of the pavements or road which are plied by vehicles are radically improved, but also imagining new and more effective forms of road controls which are more durable and effective such as, for example, setting up permanent police or gendarmerie controls or even obligatory rest stations to ensure greater compliance to all that is necessary for safer roads. There has been too much talking about road safety while the death toll on our roads continues to grow! Something has to be done; and quickly!

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