But we should also agree on the paradoxical benefits that accrue from the use of vehicles. That is, far-reaching and tragic consequences in the form of road traffic accidents, deaths and other associated maladies.
For example, the Dailynews of May 26th shows that a total of 175 people were reportedly killed in road traffic accidents as opposed to 156 in the same period, while an additional nine died in the same manner near Pitsane (Dailynews, 2nd June). Others are the three First National Bank employees and two Botswana Defence Force officers who perished in separate road crashes near Capricorn and Mabutsane on the 7th May and 11th June respectively. Obviously, all these people had a meaningful contribution to both the economy and security of Botswana. The question that comes to mind therefore is, how much does it cost to replace the two soldiers, the three bank employees and all the others whose professions we do not know? And of course, how much does it cost to get back a breadwinner killed on the road? These are vexing, problematic but pertinent questions for which no answers can be adequately provided, however the costs are undoubtedly colossal. As the President's Day public holidays approach, let us all pause and think how we can, as a nation, avert the tragedy of deaths resulting from road crashes. More often, when Batswana pack their bags and get into their vehicles to head for their respective hometowns and villages, the atmosphere is that of purpose, joy and festivity. Yet, what is sometimes left from their journeys and holiday period is the carnage of smashed vehicles and a long list of victims.
The period after is spent grieving and arranging funerals. Some of those who die in these road accidents are parents. They leave behind orphans, some of whom are still too young to fend for themselves. Some are sole breadwinners, they leave behind orphans thrown into sudden destitution. These in some cases include elderly parents. There will be no one to feed and clothe them.
Those who die, are seriously injured or permanently disabled, are wives and husbands. They leave behind widows and widowers. Graphic as this statement appears to be, it is unfortunately true. Confronted with this sobering reality, we should all cast aside all impediments, tap into our innate reserves of compassion and reasonableness, and act responsibly when in-charge of a vehicle and avoid driving in any life-threatening manner or risk-creating behaviour during these public holidays.
Over the years, reckless over-taking and driving at excessive speed have been shown to be some of the major causes of road accidents and deaths. Empirical evidence hasshown that drivers who choose a speed that deviates considerably from the average speed of traffic are more often involved in accidents than drivers who drive at a speed close to the average speed. This is equally true in over-taking at inappropriate places like blind curves and gradients. The reality is, if we are only prepared to accept road traffic accidents and their effects as an unavoidable consequence of development and mobility, then, the road towards 2016 will be somewhat bleak, and the lofty ideals envisaged in that esteemed document, particularly on page 10, that;
'The high incidence of deaths and serious injuries arising from the irresponsible use of vehicles,....will be reduced by the year 2016. There will be a high standard of road safety...' will only remain a dream, a distant and unreachable beacon.
In the run-up to pre-independence elections, the then Bechuanaland Democratic Party manifesto contained these almost prophetic words; "This is an unavoidable development, an evolutionary law, to which we must yield to survive or resist and disappear as a people" (Fawcus & Tilbury, p. 191 In: Botswana: The Road to Independence). This was in reference to some Chiefs' opposition to the country becoming one single national state instead of separate chiefdoms. That these words were meant to address issues other than road traffic accidents is immaterial, nor is it by any stretch of imagination, scare-mongering. In essence, this is about yielding to change; it is about altering one's behaviour and recognizing the common good. Consequently, let us not consider road safety simply as a legal obligation, but embrace it as our own and make it a personal mission to reduce, if not to eliminate, the calamity of road traffic deaths.
We are a people renown for passionately clinging on to cultural values we deem dear, let us therefore entrench road safety and make it our culture. This is a noble act for which we can never express regret afterwards.
Kabelo P. Ranko
The writer is a Road Safety Officer based in Palapye. He writes this article in his personal capacity