The Daily Monitor has reported in it’s latest edition today that Ministry of Works and Transport is proposing to reduce the speed limit of vehicles in built-up areas, trading centres and urban areas from the current 50Kph to 30Kph. This is not right and it is based on wrong assumption and poor analysis of road crashes in the country. The speed limit of 50Kph is borrowed from Britain where most of our legislation has heavily relied. It’s true over speeding is one of the major contributory factors to road accidents. Ofcourse it’s common sense that cars that are moving at a snails pace rarely engage in fatal accidents. Many studies have shown that chances of a car driving at a speed of under 20Kph rarely kill third party road users unless they run over them . Even more, those driving at 50Kph rarely kill their occupants unless it’s a headon collision with another vehicle. Therefore, it’s fully understandable that over speeding is the major cause of accidents. But to propose to reduce the speed so as to cut on accidents is holding the wrong side of the stick.
Highways are meant to have speeding vehicles to deliver goods and services fast because an efficient business is a fast business and the reverse is also true. By curtailing speeds on our highways we are not only slowing down businesses, we are encouraging people to use the roads as they please because cars will not knock them. One of the key things which the ministry of works and transport needs to address urgently is to ban roadside trading and markets. It’s a bad culture that has come to be accepted as a norm. People doing business in the middle of roads has become acceptable. These roadside markets are the major reason why accidents occur. Therefore instead of the ministry and government addressing this challenge, they are instead instituting a new speed limit. I will give a quick example. Ten yeas ago, a trailer that would set off from Kampala towards Mbarara would use an average of five hours. Today the minimum it can take is above eight hours including two to navigate the traffic up to Nsangi on the outskirts of the city. Between Kampala and Nsangi, there are over twenty trading centres depending on the route and all these have speed humps as you approach them and as you exit. From Nsangi to Mbarara, there are about forty trading centres and more are coming up. What does this mean? We are slowing down the speeds of our businesses instead of removing the people from the roads to keep them clear and safe.
If We allow to continuously curtail highway speeds on our roads, we shall be boxing ourselves into a tight corner. Government needs to encourage people to carry out their trade away from the highway and that is the quickest means to reduce accidents in trading centres. In places like Lukaya for instance, which is popular for Muchomo and other refreshments more space needs to be procured where those who need to refresh can stop and park safely without affecting the flow of traffic on the highway. What is happening currently at this spot is that food vendors invade the road and forcefully stop traffic to first buy from them thus causing unnecessary delays. Reducing speed limits along highways is not an intelligent solution. It’s self defeating to say the least.