The State Minister in the ministry of infrastructure in charge of transport, Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye, has said the government is reviewing the laws on road safety to increase penalties against violators, who continue to cause fatal accidents.
The State Minister was speaking at the launch of a one-month road safety campaign on Tuesday in Musanze District before hundreds of drivers, cyclists and motorcyclists as well as students and residents. The theme is ‘Know and Respect Traffic Rules to Save Lives.’
“The government is constructing more roads, but it’s one thing to have goods roads and another to keep them safe. We are not constructing roads to kill people, we are building roads to further improve the livelihoods of the people,” Uwihanganye said.
Last week, the police held a meeting with policymakers and transporters, during which it was decided to revise road traffic laws to criminalise fatal accidents, make it easier to revoke driver’s and operational licenses such as those of transport companies or individuals caught in life-threatening traffic offences.
23% of all traffic accidents recorded between August and October were either caused by or involved passenger service vehicles.
The current law provides a maximum prison sentence of six months, but most of the time offenders only receive a fine.
Terminating or suspending a driver’s license is also close to impossible in court, with only one person stripped of the license in the last four years.
“It’s not about holding a steering wheel, and you are not transporting luggage; you are holding the lives of people with that wheel. You are transporting human beings whose lives matter to their families and to the nation,” Uwihanganye remarked, adding that the road safety campaign shouldn’t just be an event but a reminder of the responsibility of every individual to make roads safer for all.
“Whenever you are in a vehicle and the driver is on the phone or speeding, you have a right to stop it, get out and and inform the police immediately. That way, you would be saving not only your own life but also that of others,” he said.
The governor of the Northern Province, Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi said that the region will carry on with the road safety awareness programmes by holding talkshows on the radio.
“Roads are part of safety and development programmes, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to make them safe,” Gatabazi said.
The inspector general of police Emmanuel K. Gasana noted that prevention requires strong partnership and individual responsibility.
“Road accidents are not a pandemic; it’s a result of individual behaviours that we cannot accept. Don’t drive if you are drunk; regulate your speed; don’t use a phone while driving; use pedestrian pathways and zebra crossing; be vigilant whenever you are using the road,” Gasana said.
The road safety month will be conducted in four phases, with the first week focusing on educating pedestrians on road safety standards and how they can use roads safely.
Pedestrians constitute the majority of victims of road accidents, accounting for 46% of the fatalities registered between August and October. They also account for 21% of the 254 serious injuries registered in the same period.
The second week of the campaign will focus on motorcyclists, followed by cyclists in the third week, and vehicles in the fourth.
The road safety report also indicates that in the last three months, motorcyclists account for 18.5% of fatalities and cyclists 17%.