Uganda has registered a five percent increase in deaths from road accidents, from 3,500 cases in 2018 to 3,880 in 2019.
ACP Charles Ssembambulide from the Directorate of Traffic and Road Safety at Uganda Police Force (UPF), said that of the reported deaths, 600 were children who got crashed when they were going or coming back from school.
“On average around 10,000 people get injured every year. Some get broken limbs and others get permanent injuries like spinal cord injuries that affect them for the rest of their lives,” ACP Ssembambulide said, adding that, the figures are higher because some accidents go unreported.
He was speaking on Monday in Kampala at an event organised by Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety, to remember Ugandans whose lives have been claimed by road accidents.
“People don’t take interest in road accidents but it kills more people in Uganda than HIV/AIDS. We should create more awareness about road accidents,” he said.
He said pedestrians and motorcyclists are the highest victims of road traffic injuries and deaths in the country.
Road traffic injuries are the eighth leading cause of death worldwide and the leading cause of death for people aged 5-29 years, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Dr Esther Bayiga Zziwa, an expert in road safety from Makerere University School of Public Health said 75 percent of people who are dying from road traffic crashes are men, and that most accidents occur in urban areas.
“The high rate of road traffic deaths among men is affecting families and the country’s economic growth because they are breadwinners in their families,” she said.
Kampala capital city contributes up to 10 percent of road traffic accident deaths, with over 300 people dying annually, according to Mr Jacob Byamukama from Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).
Ms Susan Assy Tumuhiarwe, the project coordinator of Safeway Rightway, said Uganda loses over $1 million (about Shs380billion) annually due to road accidents. This is through treating people who are injured and victims who can nolonger engage in economic activities.
The leading causes of traffic deaths and injuries include over Speeding, drunken driving, distractions to driver, red light jumping, according to Dr Zziwa.
The other causes are avoiding safety gears like seat belts and helmets and non-adherence to lane driving and overtaking in a wrong manner, according to the expert.
The Nakawa Division Mayor, Eng Ronald Balimwezo, who lost his left leg due to a traffic accident in Kampala in 2017, said the bad state of roads in the country is biggest cause of road accidents.
Mr Erias Lukwago, in his speech read by Mr Kenneth Okello, the KCCA executive secretary in charge of Works and Planning, appealed to Ugandans to take collective action in addressing the burden of road traffic injuries and deaths.
“Vulnerable road users such as the disabled, children, pedestrians, cyclists, and the elderly are the most affected. There is a need to have this group prioritized during designs and implementation of road projects,” Mr Lukwago said.
The City mayor asked the planners and engineers to put pedestrian walkway as a standard in every road being constructed in the city.
Dr Zziwa asked government to increase creation of awareness about road safety among school going children and the public.
“Our current national road safety law has some loopholes. Even around the school, the traffic speed limit indicates 50kiliometers per hour and this speed can kill a child if someone is driving,” the expert said.
She asked the Ministry of Health to come to the center stage in helping those victims of road accidents through ambulance services and ensure that the free emergency care for victims is adhered to.