THE nation received with anger, apprehension and grief news relating to the horrific road accident that claimed the lives of 47 people — 45 adults and two children — while 70 others were injured, when two buses collided head-on at the 166-kilometre peg along the Harare-Mutare Highway on Wednesday evening.
The accident, which is detailed elsewhere in this newspaper, involved Bolt Cutter and Smart Express buses and occurred at around 5.30pm to mark yet another bus disaster that can easily be attributed to human error.
According to witnesses, the driver of the Smart Express bus was trying to overtake a haulage truck and encroached into the lane of the oncoming Bolt Cutter bus, resulting in the head-on collision.
Regrettably for Smart Express Bus Company, this was the second road accident inside three months.
Yearly, scores of lives are lost on the country’s roads in accidents that experts believe can be avoided.
We should urgently come up with measures to curb these accidents because we have far less vehicles than some countries yet we record so many accidents and deaths on our roads.
According to the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe, most road accidents are a result of human error.
Speeding, misjudgement, overtaking errors, failure to give way, following too close, reversing errors, jaywalking pedestrians or cyclists and fatigue are some of the human mistakes, which can cause these fatalities.
Human error alone — which is quite preventable — contributed more that 90 percent to the cause of road traffic accidents in recent years especially during the festive season period.
The recent accident therefore reminds us all of the need to increase awareness campaigns and coach members of the public on the importance of respecting road regulations and using roadworthy vehicles.
It does not need a rocket scientist to enlighten us and make us aware that ensuring that our roads are safe requires unity among the various stakeholders involved.
According to the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe, the causes and risk factors associated with road traffic accidents include non-use of safety belts and child restraints, driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs and emotions, non-use of helmets, inappropriate and excessive speed, night driving, sheer disregard of road traffic rules and regulations, tyre bursts, negligence, fatigue, lack of safe infrastructure, use of mobile phones, stray animals and negligent pedestrians.
It is sad that the country’s roads have been turned into death traps and there seems to be no respite in the high number of crashes that Zimbabwe records on its roads.
The crashes, most of which are fatal, increase each time there is a public holiday.
Studies done in the past have shown that the majority of fatal accidents on Zimbabwean roads are blamed on human error on the part of road users, chief among them the vehicle drivers.
In fact, one Traffic Safety Council officer, Mr Tatenda Chinoda, once told the media that the road has become the greatest silent killer of our time.
“It killed yesterday, it’s killing today and it shall kill tomorrow unless we mount accelerated counteraction yesterday.
“What defeats common sense is that most of these road crashes are as a result of human errors. Drivers’ errors are clearly the major cause of road traffic crashes. On average, about five people die every day on our roads in Zimbabwe and 38 others are injured,” said Mr Chinoda.
Sadly, economically disadvantaged families are hardest hit by both direct medical costs and indirect costs such as lost wages that result from these injuries or deaths.
It is against this background that we strongly urge Government and other key stakeholders in communities to ensure that post-accident trauma and stress do not leave an indelible mark on survivors.
Given that children lose parents and family members who in most cases are the breadwinners in these road mishaps, it is imperative to give a helping hand to survivors either in cash or kind.
Where possible, the survivors can also do with some emotional and psychological support.