The United Nations General Assembly resolution March 2010 proclaimed 2011–2020 the Decade of Action for Road Safety, with a global goal of stabilising and then reducing the forecasted level of global road fatalities by increasing activities conducted at national, regional and global levels.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared road traffic injuries and by necessary implication crashes being a global crisis.
Despite accidents being a global crisis, Africa carries the brunt of the fatalities as it has the highest per capita rate of road fatalities in the world.
The aftermath of road crashes is injuries, disabilities and deaths. These situations pose tremendous health challenges.
More importantly, WHO estimates that around 1.25 million people die due to road crashes around the world annually, and between 20-50 million get temporary and often permanent injuries leading to disability.
Global estimates also show that road crashes are the leading cause of deaths for people between the ages of 15 and 24 years. If allowed to continue unabated, projections suggest that road crashes will be the number one global killer by 2030.
For Africa, the situation is even worse with the highest per capita rate of road crashes.
However, with the main objective of providing an overview of existing gaps in the road safety legal framework in Tanzania, placing particular attention on the Road Traffic Act, Chapter 168 (revised edition 2002), the ‘Coalition to Advocate for Improved Road Safety Legal and Policy Environment’ has come up with a position paper.
The paper is part of results of a project titled "Building Civil Society Organization Stakeholders Coalition to Advocate for Improved Road Safety Legal and Policy Environment," officials said.
It is tailored more specifically as a communication tool to inform the process of advocacy for legal review currently being championed by the Road Safety Civil Society Organizations’ Coalition.
The Road Safety CSO Coalition was launched in May 2016 with only six members but has expanded today to about 18 members. Among them are Tanzania Women Lawyers Association, Tanganyika Law Society, Tanzania Media Women Association, Road Safety Ambassadors, Tanzania Child Rights Forum, AMEND, Tanzania Association of People with Disabilities, Tanzania Bus Owners Association, National Institute of Transport, Tanzania Media Foundation, Safe Speed Foundation and other individuals with expertise and passion for road safety.
The paper, among other things, seeks to focus on identifying the gaps around key identified five risk factors: seat belt, child restraint, use of alcohol while driving, speeding, use of helmet and distracted driving. It focuses on presenting evidence of the extent to which these factors are covered by the law, and attempt in fitting cases to offer key arguments to show the need for comprehensive provisions that ensure their effectiveness.
The paper is an attempt to synthesize how the different frameworks feed one another into providing the contextual rationale for the Five Year Bloomberg Philanthropies Global Road Safety Programme (2015-2019) currently being Implemented in Tanzania.
It aims at reforming some specific aspects of laws governing road traffic and road safety in order to reduce the risk of road traffic crashes in the country.
The specific aim of the program is to achieve legislative amendment to address the five key risk factors of drinking and driving, seat belts, helmets use, speed regulation and child restraints.
A thorough legal and institutional assessment was also commissioned by WHO, upon which this paper builds as well, to help guide the thinking and advocacy for legal reform.
The key legislation in so far as road safety is concerned is the Road Traffic Act, Chapter 168, RE 2002. This is the main and Principal Legislation which regulates and administers safety and road transport.
It is concerned with registration of motor vehicles, driving licenses, control of traffic, use of motor vehicles and enforcement of the penalties provided in the Act.
The position paper says that although the Act was intended to tackle and maybe reduce the rate of road accidents, the same has not been self sufficient to cover the problem. There are many loopholes and gaps in the Act which affect the intended aim of reducing the rate of crashes.
The paper examines the five risk factors associated with road crashes as has been established by the World Health Organization. These are speed, drink driving, helmet legislations, seat belts and child restraints.
Speed regulation, excessive and inappropriate speed is dangerous. Excessive speed is one of the major causes of road crashes and injuries especially when coupled with the other risk factors
The faster the vehicle is travelling the greater the impact in the crash. The greater the speed, the greater the chances of the crash. This increases the possibility of great impact during the crash, leading to severe injuries and fatalities.
It is estimated that five percent reduction in speed reduces 30per cent of fatal crashes. Pedestrians and cyclists are the most vulnerable group to be affected by road accidents caused by speed.
International standards require a legal framework setting limits of motor vehicles’ speeds in consideration of the type of the road, roadside conditions, the volume and type of road users and traffic density.
The international standard suggests that speed should not exceed 50 km/h in urban/built-up areas, and where motor traffic mixes with pedestrians and cyclists the speed should be below 30 km/h.
It has been shown that there is less than 20 percent risk of dying when a vehicle is on speed of less than 50km/h and 60per cent risk of dying when the vehicle is on speed of 80km/h.
However, The Road Traffic Act covers the provision for speed limit by stating that unless otherwise indicated by traffic sign, the speed of a vehicle shall not exceed 50 kilometers per hour in built up areas.
The speed of the vehicle outside built up areas shall be regulated according to the signs and road markings as may be determined and erected on the road by road construction engineers in accordance with the prevailing legislation.
Vehicles of more than 3500 kilos maximum permissible weight shall not exceed 80 kilometres per hour.
Traffic police are given power under sections 51 (6), and 114 (1) to make regulations for speed limits in various circumstances.
Global standards also require that local or provincial governments be vested with mandate to set lower speed limits in their localities depending on the need, which requirement according to the paper is clearly missing in the RTA, CAP 168.
The coalition through the position paper observed that the law covers only a few areas for purposes of controlling speed, specifies only a few classes of vehicles and in some geographical places.
The paper stated that to cover that loopholes and for effective control of speed the law should cover all classes - of vehicles not only commercial but public service and heavy duty vehicles.
The law should also clearly cover some other geographical locations not only urban areas or built up areas. The law needs to stipulate clearly the speed limits for areas around schools and play grounds, as well as other areas like national parks
The coalition for road safety recommended that, the RTA must be reviewed to ensure the local government takes up the role of regulating speed especially with to regional and districts roads…
…The law has provided too much discretional powers to the minister for making regulations on speed limits. To be more effective the law should provide clearly the control of speed in the principal legislation.
Further, the paper proposed that the law needs to include a generic absolute limit on speed regardless of road type or vehicle category. This will ensure safety for all users and align the law with internationally accepted standards.
The paper says the Road Act, 2007 is not explicit on enforcement mechanism for its provisions that relate to speeding, thus one can safely assume that the powers of enforcement are vested in the Police Force.
It is important to also note the provisions of the Transport Licensing Authority, Cap 317 in so far as commercial vehicles and cargo are concerned.
The paper calls for harmonization between the RTA and the Road Act which will among other things create synergy in the institutional and legal framework.