According to the acting director of policy and planning in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Joyce Mombuli, the envisaged new piece of legislation will among other things be aimed at improving the overall safety of children being driven in motor vehicles that might be involved in road mishaps.
Mombuli, who was speaking at a national road safety stakeholders meeting in the new capital Dodoma, acknowledged that the Road Traffic Act of 1973 currently in use has gaps that need to be plugged to achieve this goal.
She said the ministry’s permanent secretary will study all proposals from the stakeholders meeting about what to include in the new law, then submit them to the minister for forwarding to cabinet level.
Once cabinet approval has been obtained, the bill for the new law will be prepared for formal tabling in the next National Assembly session according to legal procedure, she added.
“This is the last stakeholders meeting to collect your opinions on how to go about amending the Traffic Act of 1973. It is our hope that your opinions can be translated into a comprehensive new law covering gaps in the current law,” Mombuli stated.
Present at the meeting were representatives from the Traffic Police department; Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, the Elderly and Children; Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), Tanzania Bureau of Statistics (TBS), and the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA).
Non-state actors included the Tanzania Women Legal Association (TAWLA), Tanzania Women Media Association (TAMWA), Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), Federation of People with Disabilities in Tanzania (SHIVYAWATA), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The lack of basic child restraints in motor vehicles has long been considered as one of five major risk factors mostly likely to cause fatalities in road accidents, alongside poor helmet use (for motorcyclists and their passengers), drink driving, non- use of seatbelts, and over-speeding.
As such, one proposal expected to be considered for the new law is that children aged under seven should not be allowed to travel in cars together with their parents without being fitted with proper child restraints.
According to WHO road safety programme officer Mary Kessy, this is an international standard requirement.
“It should be noted that children are one of the groups of most vulnerable persons in road accidents. Thus the law should be amended to reflect the requirements of child restraints for children,” Kessy said.
It is also proposed that children in booster seats must be restrained by a suitably approved lap and sash type seatbelt or child safety harness that are properly adjusted and fastened.
Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting in Dodoma, the principal legal officer of the Traffic Police department, Deus Sokoni, voiced amazement that despite the importance of the child restraints matter, the current Road Traffic Act makes no mention of it.
According to Sokoni who is also chairman of the Bloomberg for Global Safety Initiative for Road Safety, there is ample evidence to show that when children are seated in restraints that conform to their body weight and size, the risk of injuries and death is reduced by almost by 70 percent.
He further stressed that the law must provide for an effectively deterrent penalty for violators of clauses emphasizing the importance of child restraints.