Careless drivers especially under the influence of drugs and alcohol and unlicensed drivers are major contributors to an increase in road traffic accidents in Botswana. Speaking at the National Road Safety Symposium in Gaborone on Thursday, the Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo said it is worrying that the 2014 statistics show an increase in accidents as a result of such conduct. “Confirmed fatalities in the period January to mid October 2015 stand at over 315 by comparison to 262 for the same period last year, an approximate 20 per cent increase , and the festive season, which is traditionally a bad time for accidents is approaching,” he said.
According to Mabeo Botswana has the second highest prevalence of road crash fatalities in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). He revealed that in the provision of third party insurance through the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund about P40 million is spent on medical bills annually and a P120 million pula a year is set aside for future expenses incurred by those injured as a consequences of such accidents.
He said as a member of the United Nations congregation, Botswana signed up and is committed to the Global Decade of Action for Road Safety of 2011-2020. Mabeo urged all stakeholders to come together and look into remedial measures like raising awareness and campaigns for road safety during festive seasons or public holidays in general. “Partnering with government is part of our National rod safety strategy which advocates for collaborative efforts with various stakeholders. The decade of Action arose as a result of the appalling worldwide statistics -1.3 million people die as a result of road traffic accidents, and this is forecast to rise to1.9 million by 2020” said Mabeo.
Meanwhile one of Australia’s leading road safety advocates Russell White encouraged government to motivate people to do things right rather than punish them to force desired results. White whose career encompasses a broad range of skills and expertise across a broad range of road safety matters was speaking at. He implored government and other stakeholders in road safety to devise longer goals strategies and be innovative.
This he says can be achieved through partnerships between government and stakeholders in the private sector. According to White although the high rate of road accidents currently grappling Botswana may seem alarming, measures of redress can still be roped in to reverse the situation. He stated that the significant change as far as road safety is concerned in Australia came about as a result of partnerships between government and other interested parties. He however noted that not all partnerships work but parties need to be resilient nonetheless.“Road safety is a journey, Australia was in a similar situation in the 1970s, but now there is significant change,” said White.
He implored stakeholders to keep on pursuing road safety issues in order to attain the envisioned goal of having accidents free roads by the year 2020. “No matter what the cost could be, something has to be done, If the challenges are left to pile up now, they will translate into something bigger,” said White.
A steering committee consisting of all key players in Road Safety in Botswana was established in August 2014 with a mandate to develop a National Road Safety symposium. The committee members included Debswana, G4 Consulting Engineers, The Ministry of Transport and Communications, through the Department of Road Transport and Safety (DTRS), MVA Fund and WHO to mention but a few.
The purpose of the symposium was to gain the commitment and engagement of the public and private sector in support of road safety in Botswana , as the government cannot do it alone, hence the theme “ Effective Partnerships for Road Safety”.