WHY Road Kills ?
4 Août 2015 - Défi Media Group
Since the beginning of the year, 80 persons have lost their lives in road traffic accidents. What are the causes and who is to be blamed? Drivers, authorities or infrastructures? How to reduce the number of accidents?
2015 is turning into a tragedy, given the alarming deathtoll from road traffic accidents. According to police records, spanning from the beginning of the year to end-July, there were 74 fatal road accidents in which 80 persons have died. The majority of victims are aged between 26 and 50. Comparatively, last year, there were 68 accidents and 72 deaths. For this year, 213 people have been seriously injured in these road accidents while 1,080 have suffered minor injuries. Moreover, the number of fatalities among motorcyclists has increased from 26 to 30. Pedestrians are vulnerable on the roads. 24 of them have been killed in road accidents as compared to 17 last year.
According to Alain Jeannot, founder of the organisation Prevention Routiere Avant Tout – PRAT, of all accidents happening around the world, 30 to 35% is due to speeding. “When you speed, you take longer to slow down. Your reflexes and vision are affected. This is why there are speed limits,” he says. The second cause, according to him, is drink driving. “32% of road fatalities in Mauritius are due to alcohol consumption. In addition, 3 out of 10 pedestrians die on the road for the same reason.”
Alain Jeannot highlights that indiscipline and transgression of traffic regulations abound on roads and highways. Two-wheelers are more prone to fatal accidents. “Two-wheelers make up 40% of our vehicle fleet, that is 199,000 two-wheelers. These users are at a higher risk. A powered two wheeler is 20 times more likely to be involved in an accident than a four wheeler. If the number were to decrease, surely there would be less fatalities,” he says.
What can be done to curb this worrying trend? Alain Jeannot lists a few measures. “Penalty points, along with speed cameras, are an additional deterrent in accident prone areas,” he says. Sensitisation campaigns are crucial, provided they reach the most vulnerable road users. The education of pedestrians is as vital. “Pedestrians must be more disciplined. They must walk on the right side and they must not wear dark clothes at night.”
Alain Jeannot vouches for the introduction of a practical test for motorcyclists. Authorities cannot continue giving a blank cheque to these road users after they only pass an oral test. “The authorities have not realised the importance of practical tests. It’s a question of life and death. Candidates must attend specialised courses before their practical test. The police must set up a special squad for two-wheelers. The wearing of reflective vests must also be closely monitored. Many wear vests used by construction workers rather than the prescribed one.” He also calls for the maintenance of road infrastructures. He maintains that we should not forget that “3,000 persons are injured in accidents every year. They are wounded for life. We must give them some consideration.” The PRAT team produced a videoclip on the occasion of the United Nations Global Road Safety Week which was dedicated to children this year. The clip can be viewed on YouTube: “Contres les accidents, soyons prudent.”
Some statistics on road safety:
- Total number of motorised vehicles- end 2014: 465,052
- Number of powered two-wheelers- end 2014: 187,851
- Fatality rate: 2013-14: 11.2 per 100,000 population.
- Fatality rate per 1,000 vehicles: 0.3 (in 2013 and in 2014)
- Total number of accidents in 2014 both casualty and non injury: 26,400. That is one accident every 20 minutes.
- Total number of casualty accidents: 2,593
- Number of fatalities 2014: 137
Raj Moothoosamy: “Road rage, alcohol and infrastructure”
According to Raj Moothoosamy, who was formerly a member of Victims Support, there are various factors causing accidents. “Road rage, alcohol, infrastructure and mechanical problems are the main causes of accidents. In many cases, the drivers are to be blamed but it also happens that pedestrians are to be blamed. Even if we stiffen laws, it is up to each individual to take up their responsibility. They should respect the laws. Can you believe some people drive at a speed of 130-140 km. There is no courtesy on the road, every one is in a great hurry,” he says. Raj maintains that the introduction of speed cameras is not a bad idea. “Cameras are here for our security. Only those who speed will show resistance. We must sensitise our youth about traffic regulations. Parents should educate their children and set an example themselves,” he points out.
Manoj Rajkoomar : “Examiners are not competent enough”
According to the President of the ‘Association des Auto-écoles’, most accidents are due to speeding. It is the main cause. “However, with the introduction of speed cameras and penalty points, we noticed that drivers became more cautious. They would slow down in accident prone areas for fear of losing their driving licence. Currently these are not operational…
People do not realise that speeding can be fatal,” he says. Manoj Rajkoomar believes that to reverse the trend, investment is required in new technologies to better inform people when they are in accident prone areas, or within speed limit zones, among others. “Educating future drivers is very important. There are many competent driving monitors who are well-versed in traffic regulations.” He adds that the number of driving lessons should be monitored by introducing a learning log. Regarding the competence of examiners, Manoj Rajkoomar says that there should be regular training courses to improve their skills and knowledge.
Radakrishna Pillay : An accident, a life overturned
We all believe that what starts well ends well. For Radakrishna, it was both a bad start and a bad ending. When he was only one year old, Radakrishna met with a terrible accident. “I can vaguely remember. I had just started walking. My mother left me with my grand parents where they used to sell fritters under a shop. I was standing there when all of a sudden, I was run over by a bus. The front wheels rolled over my legs. I was severely injured and my right leg was amputated. From there, a life full of misery started,” he says painfully.
Growing with one leg is not only painful but a stumbling block. “Growing up has been very difficult for me. My parents were discouraged and started to lock me inside the house, but I had to fight back. I started to do things on my own. I studied till Form 3 and worked at the Rose-Hill Market. Depressed, I started to drink and smoke. Life was hard and painful. Luckily, with time, I quit smoking.
I joined athletics and became well known for my performance on wheelchair for races starting from 1,500m to 10,000m,” he says. The 54-year-old further narrates: “After a lot of attempts, I landed a job in a big firm but my handicap was not always welcomed. I faced humiliation and discrimination. I had an accident at work and my second leg had to be amputed. Now, I’m bed ridden.” Today, Radakrishna is living on his invalid pension. He is married with one child. He believes that the accident 53 years back changed his life for the worse. “If I was not run over by that bus, my life would not have been as miserable. I would have been happy, working somewhere for my family. This one incident changed my life completely,” he says.
James Brette : “My child is condemned for life”
His only son met with an accident at the age of 7. James Brette, a retiree and father of Ryan, who is now 12, told us how his family’s life has turned upside down. “Ryan was a good child, very active and loved playing. He met with an accident on his way back from school. On that day, the driver of the school van forgot to pick him up and he took the bus home. He was standing on the pavement when a van knocked him straightaway. The van wanted to overtake a bus. Instead, it hit my son. Ryan’s brain was crushed,” sadly narrates the father. Since then, Ryan cannot go to school. He has become blind, deaf and handicapped. He spends his days in bed or on his wheelchair. “Ryan cannot communicate at all and cannot move. We must take care of him 24 hours a day. For us it is heartbreaking to see our child like this. In addition, we are in a difficult financial situation as his mother and I are both retired and are living on our old-age pensions only.”
The main causes of accidents
People are lost when it comes to the probable causes behind recent accidents. Are our road infrastructures inappropriate? The Traffic Branch at the Police Headquarters puts forward the following reasons for the high rate of accidents:
- Speeding. Undeniably, speeding is one of the main causes of accidents. The number of tickets handed out for speeding rose by 18% to reach 66,461 in 2013. Furthermore, from May to December 2013, around 27,457 tickets were issued under the Penalty Points Management System. It is estimated that 8 out of every 10 fines paid were for speeding. Currently none of the speed cameras around the island is operational. However, as stated by the Traffic Branch, speed guns are being used by the police to catch offenders. The cameras will be operational again soon, we are told.
- Alcohol consumption. Drink driving is another major cause of accidents on our roads. As to 30th June 2015, 1,151 positive alcohol tests have been registered. last weekend only, there were 14 positive tests. The number of drivers under the influence of alcohol has been on the rise since 2008.
- Indiscipline. Many drivers fail miserably to abide by traffic regulations and hence, they either provoke accidents or are victims of accidents. The number of offences for driving without due care has increased by 14% to reach 1,630 in 2013. Similarly, fines for failing to wear seat belts stood at 9,201. Around 7,302 drivers have been caught using mobile phones while driving in 2013.
- Drowsy driving. According to the Traffic Branch, many drivers who work at night lack concentration while driving and easily lose control of their vehicle. Being tired often diminishes a person’s reaction time.
- Climatic conditions. In some areas, visibility is reduced due to fog. Driving on rainy or sunny days is not the same. Many drivers still do not adapt their driving to prevailing climatic conditions.