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Friday, 28 April, 2000, 08:43 GMT 09:43 UK
Africa: Why so many accidents?

Hardly a week goes by without news of a serious road or boat accident in Africa.

News and Information for Africa
Last Thursday more than 70 people died in a horrific bus crash on Kenya's notorious Nairobi to Mombasa road. Hundreds have died on Lake Victoria and Ghana's Volta Lake in recent years.

Why are there so many accidents on Africa's roads, rivers and lakes? Who is to blame? Bad drivers or skippers? Or is the problem caused by overcrowding?

Are the authorities doing enough to make the roads, rivers and lakes safer? What do you believe needs to be done?


Your reaction

Africa is not one country, its a huge continent, and what a naive question to ask my fellow Africans. The BBC is posting this question like nothing happens in Europe or America in term of roads. Accidents happen on every corner, not only Africa and to suggest that African roads are bad - Don't look at Asia or even Eastern Europe, just look your own big city "London" the roads are terrible and bad drivers too.
Abdinasir Mohamed, Somalia

Africa has other problems and it is not time that we should worry about roads/water accidents. Our people are starving in Ethiopia, Somalia did not have central government for 10 years and from Zambia, Botswana to South Africa Aids is sweeping the continent so we have to worry about those at the moment and not traffic problems.
In America someone dies in a car accident every 15 seconds and we don't discuss those, why discuss Africa's minor problems and leave the major ones such as Aids, lack of stability and lack of economic development?
Ali Shireh, Somalia



I would like to question the roadworthiness of the buses and other vehicles imported from outside especially!

Muyuni, Zambia
In a recent study in Zambia carried out by The University of Zambia, it was found out that most accidents were caused by overspeeding, of course for profit maximisation. In addition, most drivers were found wanting in that, they did not have valid passenger service vehicle (PSV) licenses. So it's really a question of speeding for profits and also to meet the targets set by proprietors.
The other disturbing fact is that some countries (Zambia for instance) do not have functioning transport policies. But I would like to question the roadworthiness of the buses and other vehicles imported from outside especially!
A lot of outdated and reconditioned vehicles find their way into poor Africa. In this way, the outside world contributes to the road carnage in most of the African countries.
Muyuni, Zambia

The problem of rising car accidents is compounded by the fact that the police, who are supposed to ensure the observation of traffic rules, are not doing their job. In fact in countries like Zambia, the Police drive very defective cars,
Wilcliff, Zambia



When developing countries reach the point where individuals are valued and life is respected, then behaviour and habits will change for the better.

Betty de Jong, USA
My guess is that when developing countries reach the point where individuals are valued and life is respected, then behaviour and habits will change for the better. If you can picture a Volkswagen with 20 college students trying to cram in, hanging out the doors and windows, and then driving 60 MPH on a two lane road with potholes, you get the idea of a common sight in some African countries. Except that it would also be mothers, fathers and children in the vehicle When I would see that happening I would get an overwhelming sense that for them people were a renewable resource. It was enough to make one weep.
Betty de Jong, USA

One of the major causes of accidents is that in Africa we have a poor maintenance culture.
After building an infrastructure with millions of dollars. We just watch it deteriorate with time hence making the people who use it more accident prone, be it roads, buildings, etc.
Tunde, United Kingdom



A slow bus does not make as many trips round the route.

Joab Zephaniah Magara, Kenyan living in USA
All you have to do for the near perfect recreation of the astronauts re-entry experience into the earth's atmosphere - is to travel in some of those buses plying the capital city of Kenya, Nairobi and upcountry towns, or the mini-vans on routes around the Mt. Kenya highlands. That's as close as you'll ever come to riding a tomahawk missile. It's true poor roads increase fatality, but then potholes should equally slow down drivers outside the safari rally. In the corridors of power where the manufacture of death takes many forms, politicians and others have resisted installation of speed governors on public transport vehicles. A slow bus does not make as many trips round the route.
Joab Zephaniah Magara, Kenyan living in USA

Accidents in Africa are caused by the absence of effective road safety policies and laws. In UK careless drivers face jail sentences. In Kenya, a modest court fine could end a long legal process that began with the deaths of many. Forget the bad roads - that should be the more reason to drive carefully. Then there is poverty. Governments can't pay the law enforcers well, so they become corrupt. The owners of public transport look for "cheap drivers" to cut down on costs of high investments in the vehicles. The poor traveller cannot pay more to encourage safety. So they overload to break even. When tragedy comes the buck is passed to some evil spirits and life goes on DANGEROUSLY!
Andrew, Kenyan in UK

The road accidents in Africa are really out of hand. Sometimes I tend to wonder if our governments are happy about this continuous loss of life because nothing seems to be done like in my own country of origin Kenya, where almost 10 people's lives are lost through road accidents. Leaders stop feeding your banks with many for the roads.
Placida Awuor Osb, Philippines

I don't want to overstate this point, but alcohol most certainly plays a role in a lot of these accidents. If it's Apatashi in Ghana or good ol' Castle in South Africa, alcohol consumption is ubiquitous at the taxi rank.
N. Borges, USA

The responsibility of the authorities will create an awareness among the population to behave positively Africa needs accountability for its survival.
Pierre Kablan, USA



The traffic laws are hardly respected in Africa's roads

Susan, Sweden
The traffic laws are hardly respected in Africa's roads. One way to curb the problem is to take tough measures in getting the license to driving and enforce a harsh law of those violating the rules. Some of the coachmen are simply playing on humans' lives.
Susan, Sweden

Whilst agreeing with the comments on the economics of transportation, I would add, excitement on both the proprietor and his drivers after a perceived profit, lack of supervision and a general carefree attitude.
Chileshe, Zambia

I am surprised the death toll or rate is as low as they are on African highways. I will be honest. I expect more severe accidents at high frequency because these roads have out lived their time. They do not meet current highway geometric standards, there are no posted speed limits and the conditions of the pavement are very poor. The fault lies squarely in the hands of African leaders.
Here are two reasons why you would want to improve a highway: Geometric and the other is capacity. Recently while travelling in West Africa, I noticed several problems on the highways. I was very frightened. There were no posted speed limits. Sight distances in curves and on hills were below standard. Remember, most of the roads are two lanes highways (not divided). In areas of high fills (embankment) with steep side slopes, there were no guard-rails and very poor road side design.
John Boimah, From Liberia resides in the USA



Not a single day passes without car-accidents which claim hundreds of people's life in the US, and even Europe.

Dejazmach, Ethiopia
I think the traffic-accidents in Africa are exaggerated. Not a single day passes without car-accidents which claim hundreds of people's life in the US, and even in Europe and other parts of the world. But when it comes to Africa people wonder why. I don't mean we should ignore it, but why is Africas road/water accidents a discussion point in this forum. I think there are more serious subjects to discuss about.
Dejazmach, Ethiopia

Some of the causes of accidents in Africa are narrow roads, drunk driving, few traffic lights, illiteracy and non enforcement of traffic laws.
Francis Abagi, Nigeria

This is ridiculous. What is the individual African country statistics on accidents and how do these compare with other countries on other continents? On the other hand how does Africa's accident statistics compare with other continents? It is only when Africa is seen as one "big village", prone with only disasters to be reported that one gets this type of coverage. It happened with the Airline disaster in Abidjan recently; same with Aids - even now mosquitoes. And now you want to keep tab of bicycle accidents too!
S.S. Adzei, Ghana

Africa now has a problem with it's road and everything, because most of the roads were built by the Europeans colonisation over Africa in the 1900's. While today African leaders are busy destroying what they enjoyed when they were young!
Andy Gammada, Canadian



Anyone with the right connection to a government office can get a license to run anything, whether it is a bus driver, to a boat captain.

Mike Msuya, USA/Tanzania
The problem is enforcement. Anyone with the right connection to a government office can get a license to run anything, whether it is a bus driver, to a boat captain. The other problem is overcrowding on buses and especially boats; remember the Lake Victoria ferry sinking due to excess weight.
Also police and port authorities are bribed into overlooking major defects noticed on public vehicles. Tires are bold, slip the right note with your papers, and off you go... Reckless driving is also at the root of the problem; most major road accidents involve excessive speeding.
Mike Msuya, USA/Tanzania

The fundamental economics of African travel is that the transport operators' income is determined by maximising passenger miles. The more passengers, the faster the speed, the more money earned. The economics of transport in Africa encourages speed and overloading.
The lack of effective law enforcement and regulation prevents anything being done about it. Add in the appalling conditions of the roads and vehicles and the result is that people die.
The only solution is for passengers themselves to take their safety in their own hands and refuse to travel in speeding buses or on over-crowded boats.
Paul, South Africa

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