Hardly a day passes in Zimbabwe without a serious road accident that claims lives and leaves many nursing lifelong injuries, improved roads notwithstanding. Statistics have put road accidents ahead of HIV and Aids as the leading cause of deaths in the country.
Sadly, more accidents and deaths on the roads routinely happen during the so-called festive season towards the end of the year when friends, relatives and acquaintances rush to celebrate together.
Inconclusive statistics have it that at least 65 people have perished while 769 others were injured in 769 accidents recorded on the country’s roads over this festive season with Matabeleland South having recorded the latest deaths.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Andrew Phiri said the latest accident occurred at the 39km peg along the Bulawayo-Solusi road on Saturday.
A kombi burst its front tyre resulting in it rolling three times, killing six people on the spot and one having died at Mpilo Hospital, said Supt Phiri.
Police have said the major causes of road accidents have been speeding and human error.
Phiri indicated the police have so far arrested 166 people for driving while drunk, impounded 2 438 unroadworthy vehicles and issued 40 354 tickets for various offences.
It all boils down to a lack of common decency on the roads and failure to observe simple highway rules. It is that “don’t-care” attitude on the part of our drivers that has earned Zimbabwean roads the unpleasant reputation of being among the most dangerous in the world.
Regrettably the situation is getting worse as the roads get better with increased economic stability and investment for which the coalition government deserves kudos.
These include the multi-billion dollar Harare-Masvingo highway and Harare-Bulawayo road expansion into a super highway.
Other roads that have undergone improvement since the inclusive government came into effect include in the city centre, in Chitungwiza and other cities.
Other than use the improved road network to kill and maim ourselves through recklessness as is happening today, they should serve to anchor us into accelerated development, bearing in mind that efficient transport is the key to prosperity in any nation.
The investment that has gone into road improvement must not be life-sapping but an asset to help us reach produce markets and other destinations faster.
Moving fast helps save valuable man-hours, but care must be exercised to ensure the movement is not paid for in life and limb. That makes the heavy investment in roads worthwhile.
The Government has an obligation to enforce traffic rules without allowing corruption to dictate the behaviour of officers entrusted with the task.
Unroadworthy or overloaded vehicles, that are sure deathtraps on the roads, ought to be removed for the safety of other road users. Drunken drivers should be netted and punished.
It is futile to build good roads only for them to turn into butchers of innocent travellers. So, as Government invests in the road network, it is imperative to invest in safety with equal vigour.
That could mean revamping the obsolete CCTV cameras at strategic points to monitor speeding vehicles.
We expect the new BMWs recently bought by the police to be used to save the lives of thousands of Zimbabweans during the year ahead.
The mobile highway patrol units should impose spot fines for offenders.
Drivers need to know that breach of laid-down rules and regulations is punishable and that money cannot shield them.
What is the point of investing heavily in the roads only to let heavy trucks, reckless public transport drivers and others destroy them while posing a danger to other road users?