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Road Safety, Beyond Studies!

Cameroonians from north to south and east to west are certainly enveloped in euphoria following announced studies to curb road accidents in the country. In fact, the World Bank and the government of Cameroon

are full-drawn to set up a databank on the causes and an information system from where analysis could be done and solutions proposed to limit the scourge. The project is expected to last 20-month (March 2015 – November 2016).

There is no reason here not to hope for better things from the project, at least given the devastating effects of road accidents in the country. World Health Organisation report for 2013 shows that over 1,260 people perished in road accidents in Cameroon in 2010. A simple arithmetic of this figure puts 64 accident victims per million inhabitants. This is alarming! Even at the time of writing this piece, there was an accident on the Yaounde-Bafoussam road with lives lost. That was not the first and will not even be the last either. The country has lost some of her finest politicians, businessmen, lawyers, magistrates, writers, in fact, heavy-weights and potentials, to numerous road accidents.

Coming up with any proposals on how to limit the destroyer cannot but be hope-raising given the fright Cameroonians go through each time they or their family members hit the road. Some even separate the same family members from travelling in the same bus or even travel agencies for fear of all perishing in recurrent accidents. Once beaten, twice shy, it is said.

The seemingly bleak picture of road safety in the country therefore calls for concrete and feasible actions on the new project. It shouldn’t just be a study like others in the past whose effects are yet to be felt by the targeted population. Road safety is almost becoming a sing-song in the country  with each official drafting what he/she thinks could be the best strategy to solve the problem. As diverse as strategies are as well as their actors, road accidents which road safety measures are meant to curb disturbingly persist.

There is therefore need to go beyond studies. Actors must play by the rules of the game and tackle the problem from the base. It is no news that Cameroon has a poor road network. It is on record that slightly over 10 per cent of the national road network is tarred. Even the tarred section is currently suffering from advanced dilapidation. Users of the Yaounde-Bafoussam-Bamenda axis would bear with us here that the stretch is virtually a death trap. Potholes left and right and even the Babadjou-Bamenda stretch can no longer be considered a road, at least a paved one. Examples like these abound from north to south and east to west and it wouldn’t require a 20-month, FCFA 11 billion project to decipher the problem.  

Again, there is the perennial problem of the worthiness of the vehicles that ply the roads. Vehicles with almost punctured tyres as well as other technical lapses uninterruptedly ply the country’s roads. Where road-worthiness controllers of these vehicles have gone to or the effects of sometimes heavily-mounted joint controls of the forces of law and order on these vehicles on our highway are yearning for answers. There may be the best of roads but once the vehicles using them are not in the best of shapes, accidents would be inevitable.

Then comes the vexing palaver of who drives what vehicle and how in the country. Driving licenses are issued by the Ministry of Transport after beneficiaries must have gone through a certified driving school, write and pass an end-of-course exam.  Currently, there is much cacophony in the deliverance of the precious document with actors trading accusations and counter-accusations. Whether who is right or wrong may not be important at least for now.

The problem is when unqualified people are authorised to ply the roads with the risks involved. The announced studies are good but will only make a difference if the above-mentioned problems, well known even to youngsters in the country, are urgently handled. FCFA 11 billion is money huge enough to carry a life-changing project from start to finish. Habits, as hard as they are to die, absolutely need to change for the present scenario to be history. 

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