IN years gone by, the only time we would hear about horrifying road traffic accidents was during the major holidays of Christmas, Easter, Independence, Heroes Day and the Defence Forces Day.
But today one can expect a serious accident to happen every other day.Late last month 15 people perished in a head-on collision involving a commuter omnibus and a haulage truck along the Dema-Hwedza road. The collision occurred at night and was reportedly caused by the truck which had one headlamp.
Granted, the country’s vehicle population has phenomenally increased from a few thousands, once upon a time, to the millions now plying our roads. Granted, our roads have become a serious danger to the citizenry. Granted, there are too many defective cars on our roads.
However, having driven on the country’s roads for the past three decades or so, I am increasingly dreading driving even to work for the simple reason that our roads today are now fraught with lack of the rule of law and there are just too many of our drivers who have become so rude that it is unbelievable.
*Giving way or stopping at intersections that are not controlled by traffic lights is no longer being observed;
*Stopping at a traffic light- controlled intersection is no longer being observed;
*Many drivers do not even bother to give others a chance to navigate our badly worn-out roads;
*Alerting other drivers to observe road rules invites backlash;
*One meets at least one in every five cars whose drivers are so rude that they do not even care that their headlamps are on high beam;
*One in three cars always trail you behind with its headlights on high beam;
*One in three drivers drive in the inner lane at 40km/hr in a 60km/hr or 60km/hr in a 100km/hr speed limit zone and persistent appeals for them to move over to the outer and slow lane invites insults;
*Some drivers follow a slow moving vehicle for kilometres on a highway only to decide to overtake when someone behind them decides to overtake; and when
*The number of police roadblocks are now so numerous that most drivers are always so frustrated and angry over being fined for petty offences that their concentration becomes dangerously poor.
All these situations constitute deadly accidents just waiting for their time to happen.
It is now such a nightmare to drive in the country that one wonders if sanity would one day ever prevail on our roads.
Is it then no wonder when an analysis of the country’s road accidents indicates that the majority of our accidents are caused by human error? To be more precise, according to the Zimbabwe Traffic Safety Council (ZTSC), 93 percent of road accidents in Zimbabwe are due to human error.
In one of its press releases ZTSC said: “It should be underscored that road traffic injuries are largely preventable. Accidents are caused by a number of factors including speeding, poor judgment or inattention, overtaking error, failure to give way, following to close, reversing error, obstruction on the road, tyre bursts, negligent pedestrians and cyclists, animals and fatigue. Therefore, by percentage, human error — which is preventable — contributes 93,4 percent to road traffic accidents.”
And if you add to this already potent cocktail of human errors, the aspect of human arrogance, rudeness and downright disrespect for other road users, you will get the disaster that our roads have become today.
Previously, it had been the commuter omnibus drivers who were the most rude of all motorists in the country. But today, especially in the capital, Harare, expect rudeness from any driver: A behaviour referred to, in other countries, as road rage.
According to the online research portal Wikipedia road rage can be defined as “aggressive or angry behaviour by a driver of an automobile or other road vehicle. Such behaviour might include rude gestures, verbal insults, deliberately driving in an unsafe or threatening manner, or making threats. Road rage can lead to altercations, assaults, and collisions that result in injuries and even deaths. It can be thought of as an extreme case of aggressive driving.”
Some of the manifestations of road rage include:
*Generally aggressive driving, including sudden acceleration, braking, and close tailgating.
*Cutting others off in a lane, or deliberately preventing someone from merging.
*Blocking others from leaving their parking lot.
*Chasing other motorists.
*Flashing lights and/or sounding the horn excessively.
*Yelling or exhibiting disruptive behaviour at roadside establishments.
*Driving at high speeds in the median of a highway to terrify drivers in both lanes.
*Shouting verbal abuses or threats.
*Intentionally causing a collision between vehicles.
*Hitting other vehicles.
*Assaulting other motorists, their passengers, cyclists, or pedestrians.
*Exiting the car to attempt to start confrontations, including striking other vehicles with an object.
*Threatening to use or using a firearm or other deadly weapon.
*Throwing projectiles from a moving vehicle with the intent of damaging other vehicles.
It is very worrying that these manifestations of road rage are increasingly becoming commonplace in Zimbabwe.
According to studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there have been over 1 200 incidents of road rage reported per year in the United States, a number of which has ended with serious injuries or even fatalities.And with the way drivers are behaving on our roads, it is highly possible that many of our accidents could actually be attributed to road rage rather than human error.