Zimbabwe Records Increase In Number Of Vehicles Being Hit By Trains
By Wallace Mawire
Zimbabwe is intensifying awareness in a bid to entrench safety attitudes and to proffer solutions on the safety challenges where roads intersect with railway lines amidst reports over increasing accidents at rail crossings which have become a cause of concern over the years.
Mike Madiro, Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development said recently at the United Nations Road Safety Week commemorations that circumstances that occur in and around railways in the country have led government to commemorate the important week, with the hope to promote road traffic safety in Zimbabwe.
‘Indeed, this ceremony provides us with an opportunity to raise awareness, entrench safety attitudes and exchange ideas, with the view to proffer solutions to the safety challenges where roads intersect with railway lines. Accidents at rail crossings have been a cause of concern over the years,” Madiro said.
The commemorations were held following a smart partnership struck between Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) and the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ).
The TSCZ has procured paint for the renewal of signage, road regulatory signs and danger warning signs for all rail-road level crossing sites in Zimbabwe.
The United Nations General Assembly mandates the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN regional commissions to plan and host periodic UN Global Road Safety Weeks.
The World Health Organisation, in collaboration with partners, organises periodic UN Global Road Safety Weeks.
The 7th edition focuses on sustainable transport, in particular the need to shift to walking, cycling and using public transport.
Madiro said that road safety is both a prerequisite for and an outcome of this shift.
He said that it is from this background that his ministry takes part in the commemorations, as it coincides with efforts towards promotion of road safety in the country.
This year’s 7th UN Global Road Safety Week takes place from the 15 to 21 May 2023 and is running under the theme “Sustainable Transport” #RethinkMobility. The week was first marked in 2007.
Road traffic injuries are a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, with around 1.3 million people killed, and as many as 50 million people injured each year.
For people aged 5-29 years, there is no greater threat to their lives.
Globally, 1 of every 4 deaths occur among pedestrians and cyclists.
Owing to the foregoing shocking statistics, the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 reflects an ambitious target to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030.
It highlights that they can be prevented by addressing the whole of the transport system, taking action to ensure safe roads, vehicles and behaviours as well as to improve emergency care.
“This also includes safety issues on rail crossings. That is why we have NRZ and TSCZ working together towards one goal of reducing accidents and incidences at points where railway lines cross our roads,” Madiro said.
He added that safety must be at the core of efforts to reimagine mobility which puts road and rail safety at the core for all road users.
“Thus, road and rail networks must be designed with the most-at-risk in mind, children, adolescents, persons with disabilities, pedestrians, cyclists, and users of public transport. As Government, we fully support the U.N in our effort to making our societies free from the effects of road crashes, including at rail crossings. In Zimbabwe, we lose an average of 5 people per day to road crashes. That surely is cause for alarm,”Madiro said.
He said that road Safety Week is about everyone taking responsibility to rethink mobility and create a safe and sustainable transport system.
He added that it is about leaders at all levels of government and industry, as well as road safety professionals and practitioners,who are integral in funding, researching, and creating a safe environment for all road users.
Madiro said that safety and accessibility must be the core focus when designing roads, vehicles, social infrastructure, and deciding on speed limits, to ensure that all road users, particularly vulnerable ones, can move about safely.
‘We need to create safe and reliable options for cyclists and pedestrians to encourage active transport options,” Madiro said.
He said that as a country, they have this year decided to raise awareness about road safety and crash prevention and promote measures to reduce the number of crashes and fatalities on roads.
This is said to be in line with the national target under the National Development Strategy (NDS-1), that is to reduce road crashes, injuries, and fatalities by 25 % by 2025 and 50% by 2030.
Road crashes are a major public health and safety concern in Zimbabwe and the Road Safety Week is an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of safe driving and the need to follow traffic rules and regulations.
Various organizations in the transport sector are collaborating to share ideas on new initiatives and policies to promote road safety in the country and to highlight the efforts being made to improve the safety of roads and railway networks.
Madiro said that railway level crossing crashes can occur when road users violate traffic safety rules.
He also said that railway level crossing crashes may also occur when there are non-deliberate road user mistakes.
‘By raising awareness about road safety and the efforts being made to improve it, the Road Safety Week helps to create a culture of safety on Zimbabwean roads and helps to reduce the number of crashes and fatalities. This is important not only for the safety of the general public, but also for the economic development of the country, as road traffic crashes have a significant negative impact on productivity and economic growth,” Madiro said.
He says that road traffic crashes not only take the lives of people engaged in the crash, but also destroy the lives of others who rely on those involved in the crash.He said that the initiatives aim to save more than one life by improving road safety.
The Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, reflects an ambitious target to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030.
The Plan highlights that accidents can be prevented by addressing the whole of the transport system, taking action to ensure safe roads, vehicles, and behaviours as well as to improve emergency care.
Madiro said that since the NRZ has the whole rail industry on its shoulders, it is prudent to note that the entity’s safety record has become vulnerable or susceptible due to transportation of hazardous and dangerous materials, vandalism for copper cables, signals and communication equipment, rail communication equipment, communication mast equipment, among other critical rail ensemble.
He said that incidents of derailments, crashes and rail-road level crossing accidents have been experienced over the years, endangering the country’s economic lifeline, life, and limb as well.
Madiro said that while his ministry, through TSCZ, together with the NRZ has broad campaign strategies in place such as rail-road level crossing awareness, illegal gold panning along the railway lines, stone-throwing at moving trains, vandalism and theft of rail signals and communication equipment and safety on and around the railway lines, there is need to intensify the railway safety awareness campaign with the involvement of the media and other stakeholders.
“The conflict between pedestrians and motorists as well as trains has been a major challenge to the nation. Although incidences have been sporadic in other parts of the country, some areas remain a challenge which warrants our attention,” Madiro said.
According to Madiro, the incidents relating to road-rail level crossing have been on the increase since January 2022.
He said that the death rates have been 80% occurring during the first six months of the year 2022.
He added that the road crashes occur mostly during the mid-month days, with commuter trains being the most involved in the crashes.
It is also reported that they are mostly prevalent in the early hours of the morning.
According to Madiro, the number of cases of motorists and pedestrians being hit by trains is a serious challenge to the country.
“Equally worrying is that the country continues to record an increase in the number of vehicles being hit by trains. Despite the numerous efforts to raise awareness, the cases continue to happen,” Madiro said.
He appealed to operators and drivers of both private vehicles and public service vehicles to adhere to basic safety issues like the use of safety belts, improving roadworthiness of vehicles, avoiding fatigue driving, shunning drunk driving, promoting pedestrian safety and avoiding all forms of dangerous driving such as speeding, hit and run accidents and overloading.
Madiro said that road safety is a collective responsibility since public infrastructures such as roads and railways lines are shared spaces.
He said that pedestrians, cyclists, passengers and drivers need to be alert at all times when they use the infrastructure.