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Government needs to set a commission of enquiry on road accidents

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RICHARD MOLEOFE

Crested away in a valley between majestic hills lies the village of Mogobane. There is not much any journalist can write about this village and actually a year can pass-by without a mention of it in the news media.
This past weekend, the village saw the mass funeral of four road accident victims. The accident that took the lives of four members of the same family happened on the notorious A1 highway near Otse.
As thousands of mourners left the village after the funeral, one question that lingered in their minds was how safe it was to get back on the A1 which serves as the main highway in this country.
Out of the weekend experience, I would urge government to set up a body to fully investigate the real reasons why so many of our people are consistently perishing on our roads. Unless we are fully informed by some form of research or an equivalence of that, we will never come close to knowing the truth.
Of course we can make our own extrapolations and create certain hypotheses around the issue. But what we need most at this hour of need is an informed study of some sort. The rates of death on our roads have seriously risen. For a small country like ours, we need to seriously introspect beyond our past efforts.
As the tally exceeded 450 by the middle of the festive season, we are surely missing the mark in some place. I am aware that South Africa had the worst of the seasons as around 1 350 people perished during the festive season alone. Of course there are different dynamics and variables that help the growth of road carnage in each of the two countries.
Government has always attributed drunken driving to the nationwide escalation of road accidents. Indeed drunken drivers can be a menace and there is never a reason for one to drive drunk. The reason why we need a study is because major efforts have been put in place to curb drunken driving. One of the measures was the increase in the price of alcohol. Another has been the introduction of Booze Buses manned by the police on our roads.
Unless we are provided with figures, the country could have let millions of pula down a bottomless pit. These buses came in as a measure of enforcement. We now need government to focus efforts more on education.
On the issue of speed, the police have escalated their roadblocks to almost every bend on the A1. I have never believed that a sober driver who exceeds the permissible speed can be equated to a drunken one. In the first place all vehicles are required to maintain 120 km/h as maximum speed on our roads and how do you subject a Corolla to the same rules as an Audi. They are not in the same class and their performance can never be compared.
The arrival of the police speed traps has only come to serve the increase of corruption on our highways. It is now an open secret that the police are busy lining their pockets on daily basis. Motorists have chosen to fulfil the financial needs of the underpaid police officers because the official fines are way too high. With this we are slowly creating a West African nation that I choose not to mention in this space.
Unless we know the real reasons for our road carnage, then we have no right to even say a word. I know that government has statistics on road accidents but the truth lies in correct interpretation and not in regarding hypothesis as the answer.

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