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Behold, these deadly crashes are preventable

EMOTIONS ran high at Police Barracks Hospital, Kilwa Road in Dar es Salaam on Saturday as hundreds of mourners paid their last respects to three police officers who died in a road crash, which occurred in Mkuranga district, Coast region last week.

The trio, Rufiji Police region Staff Officer, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ASP), Issa Bukuku, aged 47, Inspector Esteria Ernest, 37, and Police Constable Lameck Mangare, 34, passed on the spot when the rear tyre of the official car they were travelling in burst resulting in the deadly crash on Thursday, last week.

Pictures taken from accident scene show that the front of the car was completely crashed, causing instantaneous death of three occupants, leaving two of them, Ibrahim and Robert Mgusi seriously injured. Unfortunately, Mgusi passed on five days latter.

The mood was somber and many broke down and couldn’t hold back their tears as they bade a final farewell to the fallen cops. Family members, relatives, friends and colleagues seemed to overcome with grief for having to part with their loved ones.

Public leaders, including Regional Commissioner for Coast region, led by Mr Evarist Ndikilo and heads of security organs, led by Inspector General of Police, IGP Simon Sirro delivered touching speeches during the funeral ceremony and tried to console the families of the victims. “Today is a very sad day for the police force, very sad.

To train a police officer until he reaches the level of Assistant Commissioner of Police, until she reaches the level of inspector (Inspector Esteria), completes initial training and becomes a constable (Lameck) is never a small task,” mourned IGP Sirro.

“Being IGP I know the shortage we have (of officers), so to lose these three officers (in a car crash) is really a big loss for us,” he said of the tragic loss, which came hardly two months after a Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Anael Mbise died in a road crash.

The then Ilala Regional Crimes Officer, Mbise died when his car, a Toyota Prado, crashed head on with a minibus in Mwanga district, Kilimanjaro region, on May 7, this year.

What is even more stressful, in addition to loss of valuable life and property, these crashes could have largely been avoided.

Preliminary investigations showed that the first crash was caused by speeding and dangerous overtaking while a tyre burst was to blame for the last Thursday’s crash, something which could have been securely taken care of by regular vehicle maintenance.

The latest tragedy adds to the long list of car crashes that persistently claim the lives of public servants and ordinary Tanzanians, while leaving many others injured or completely disabled.

And most victims are in their productive age. According to experts, there are four main reasons as to why tyre bursts occur. One is improper inflation.

They say a tyre is under inflation if it sits more on the ground causing a larger contact patch which in turn causes more friction and added heat generation, thus leading to tyre burst. Another reason is overloading.

Overloading a car is a common phenomenon. This causes increased stress on the tyres which could lead to tyre burst. Low quality or damaged tyres can also cause tyre burst.

Experts warn that tyres noted with cuts and bulges should be repaired or replaced immediately so as to prevent such a mishap from occurring. Lastly but least in importance is over-speeding.

“Tyres are not designed to tackle over-speeding beyond a certain limit. If pushed beyond this limit they could burst,” writes Pearl Daniels in his article ‘car tyre burst prevention’ published on www.rushlane.com website.

The expert advice is to keep maximum speed limit at 100 kmph as anything over this limit puts extreme pressure on tyres for most vehicles.

Most observers would agree that, by examining the post accident state of the car the quintet of Bukuku, Ernest, Mangare, Ibrahim and Mgusi were travelling in, the vehicle was going at a high speed before one of the tyres burst.

The three police officers died in the line of duty, as IGP Sirro suggested during the funeral. During police operations, excessive speed could be justified, nevertheless, the safety should be a priority.

Excessive speeding is to blame for a chunky of fatal crashes on Tanzanian roads, particularly highways, admits Traffic Police Commander, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police F ortunatus Musilimu.

He says driving at unmanageable speed, especially among young drivers, is a major factor for unnecessary crashes and resultant road fatalities.

The review of the existing situation regarding road safety in Tanzania by the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra, now Land Transport Regulatory Authority, Latra) also points to speeding as a leading cause of road crashes.

A road safety expert, Mr Henry Bantu, Member of the National Road Safety Council, quoting Murphy’s law which says ‘anything that can go wrong will go wrong at any given time’ warns drivers to observe precaution when driving on the road.

“Even if you are allowed to drive at 80km/p or 100km/h you must consider other factors that could cause a crash such as tyre burst, it can occur at any time and cars are just machines they can misbehave at any time,” says the SafeSpeed Foundation Chairman.

On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that excess and inappropriate speed is responsible for a high proportion of the mortality and morbidity that result from road crashes.

“In high-income countries, speed contributes to about 30% of deaths on the road, while in some low-income and middle income countries speed is estimated to be the main contributory factor in about half of all road crashes,” says the WHO in a Global Road Safety Status Report, 2018.

Speed also contributes to the severity of the impact when a collision does occur, says the WHO.

“For car occupants in a crash with an impact speed of 80 km/h, the likelihood of death is 20 times what it would have been at an impact speed of 30 km/h,” the global health organization states.

Currently, there are three general speed limits stipulated by the law. Section 51 of the Road Traffic Act, 1973, the speed limits for vehicles with more than 3.5 tonnes is 80km/h.

In built up areas, the speed limit is 50km/h but there is no speed limits for private vehicles and cars under 3.5 tonnes outside built up areas. Road safety experts have been calling for amendments on speed laws to introduce speed limits for private cars, which is proposed to be maximally at 100km/h.

Studies suggest that a 1 km/h decrease in travelling speed would lead to a 2–3% reduction in road crashes.

“Setting and enforcing speed limits are two of the most effective measures in reducing road traffic injuries,” says Ms Mary Kessy, the Coordinator for Violence and Injury Prevention - Road Safety, health systems cluster for WHO Tanzania Office.

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Mwandishi: ABDALLAH MSUYA

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