By Alhaj Kaddunabbi Ibrahim Lubega
Nothing made headlines consistently last year like road crashes that claimed thousands of lives with hundreds surviving with injuries.
According to the Traffic Police statistics, 1,021 boda boda riders and 401 passengers lost their lives between January and September 2022 across the country due to road crashes.
In April 2022 alone, 153 people died in road accidents while 289 people died, in July alone, with the number of injured ones estimated at 965.
Additionally, 257 people died in a space of 28 days between October 1 and 29 2022 and the situation worsened during the festive season where 55 people were reported to have died in road crashes in just four days between December 23 and 26 while another 10 people died on December 28 alone.
According to the 2022 Uganda Police Force (UPF) annual report, the country registered 20, 394 cases of road accidents in 2022 compared to 17,443 registered the previous year. Out of every 100 crashes, 22 people died while 61 percent of all accidents were a result of reckless driving.
Between January 1 and 8,2023, there were 340 accidents, in which 79 people were killed while 245 people sustained injuries, according to Police statistics. Recently, nine people perished in a road accident in Lwengo district after a vehicle they were traveling in collided head-on with a fuel tanker.
Going by these numbers, road crashes could be the leading non-disease-related cause of death in Uganda which is a high cost to the country economically. At the current rate, road crashes will soon overtake malaria as the leading cause of death in the country. World Health Organisation estimated malaria deaths in Uganda at 19,600 in 2021.
According to Police, reckless driving is the leading cause of road crashes in Uganda. Besides leading to a humanitarian crisis, road crashes have a significant negative impact on society and the insurance sector as billions of shillings are paid out in motor-related claims annually. Though paying claims is one of the reasons why the insurance industry exists, the claims should not be out of careless driving, but accidents that are not preventable.
Reducing the number of road crashes and improving road safety is thus of significant importance to Uganda’s insurance industry as the frequency and severity of road crash-related claims affect insurers’ revenues.
All hope is, however, not lost. Insurance can, and is ready to play a role in improving road safety in Uganda.
Key among the initiatives is promoting better driving behaviour through embedding road safety financial incentives/value-added services in all motor vehicle insurance covers. This can work in a way that a driver with a good safety record is rewarded in form of discounted premium at the renewal of the policy.
Additionally, they can also use the risk-based pricing approach to promote personal responsibility. This should link the causing of an accident to the economics of paying for those consequences, which in turn gradually leads to safer driving and behavior change.
As the regulator of the insurance industry in Uganda, we encourage and support innovation across the value chain and we are optimistic that the licensed insurers will soon roll out such products to transform behaviour and as a result, decrease road fatalities.
We all agree with me that reducing the frequency and severity of crashes benefits everyone.
As the regulator, we commit to continue investing in raising public awareness of high risk factors for road users, including speeding, alcohol use and non-use of seatbelts, among others, with a focus on vulnerable road users such as children, motorbikes and non-motorised vehicles.
Additionally, the insurance industry commits to partner with various stakeholders ranging from the Ministry of Works and Transport, Police and Transporters Associations to promote safe driving on all Ugandan roads.
Furthermore, we will explore avenues of having a joint consumer awareness strategy to sensitise drivers and pedestrians to good road usage. With the above, we hope to see a reduction in accidents on our roads.
People should know that safe driving saves money, lives, property, and injuries. When you drive safely, you greatly reduce the likelihood of causing injury to yourself and others.
Let us drive responsibly to save lives.