Friday, 20 June 2014

Road traffic accidents killing more people yet a neglected public health concern in Uganda

By Baluku Matayo

oad traffic injuries are the eighth leading cause of death globally, and the leading cause of death for young people aged 15–29, leave alone the disability and economic consequences it accrues. According to the World Health Organization, 7,806–9,709 deaths occur in Uganda every year.

Whereas our country has comprehensive legislation on four of the five key risk factors for road traffic injuries (i.e. speed, drink–driving, motorcycle helmets, seat-belts and child restraints), there is reluctance among passengers and drivers to prioritize their safety on the road.

Drivers tend to only reduce speed, or ‘pretend to wear’ a seat-belt when they suspect a traffic police officer ahead. On many occasions passengers join hands with drivers/conductors to abuse a police officer attempting to enforce appropriate traffic laws.

There is also reluctance on the part of some police officers to enforce these laws. I remember there was a time when the police was ‘serious’ at enforcing this law. Did it die a ‘natural’ death?  

Failure to use a seat-belt is a major risk factor for road traffic injuries and deaths among vehicle occupants. Wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of a fatal injury by 40–50% for drivers and front seat occupants, and up to 75% for rear seat occupants.

Enforcing seat-belt laws in Uganda needs more emphasis for both front and rear seat occupants. This should apply to both private and public vehicles. It should be preceded with extensive public awareness campaigns including support from politicians and the media. However, the other question that you need to answer is who is responsible for your own safety on the road? What are you doing to ensure this safety?

As a practice, remember to wear your seat belt. If your car doesn't have seat belts, buy. Prevention is better and cheaper than cure

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