It seems everyone is in a hurry trying to wrap up their shopping and enjoy festive celebrations. But as you are dashing around town, it is important to keep road safety top of your mind, as the streets are busier and drivers are distracted by their holiday to-do lists.
This is the time when most motorists usually drive upcountry for the festive season. “Every time I am to drive to the village for the festive season, I prepare myself and service the car ahead of time. For every 100 kilometres I drive, I park the car in a safe place away from the road and rest,” says Nicholas Tumwine, a motorist who plans to drive upcountry at the weekend with his family.
“When I feel I cannot drive anymore, I ask my brother to take over the rest of the journey. I always make sure there is someone in the car who can drive in case of an emergency,” Tumwine adds.
Ronald Amanyire, the secretary of National Road Safety Council in the Ministry of Works and Transport, observes that the biggest risk as you drive upcountry for the festive season is speeding and not using seatbelts.
“You need to be aware that every motorist will be in a hurry to get to their destination. As such, you become less conscious. On a highway, seatbelts are a necessity to protect and keep you locked in your seat in case anything happens,” Amanyire advises.
Draw a journey plan
Paul Kwamusi, a road safety consultant with Integrated Transport Systems Limited, advises that if you are to drive, for example to Kabale or any long distance, draw a journey management plan to avoid incidences of fatigue. “You cannot drive 400 kilometres without rest. Plan for rest durations and where you are to have them. If you are a first time highway driver, increase the number of resting times because you are not as experienced. Your level of concentration is also still low. You are even worried about whether you will reach your destination,” Kwamusi advises.
Charles Ssebambulidde, the spokesperson of the traffic directorate, advises that you should drive because you are qualified, not because you know how to. This means you must possess a genuine driving permit.
According to the law, one needs to have a driving permit or a valid learner driving permit endorsed in respect to that class of motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant.
Once caught driving without a permit, you will be detained and taken to court. In court, you either pay a fine of not less than Shs800,000 or are jailed for three months.
Driving while upcountry
Driving during the festive season is not all about driving from Kampala to your village. When you reach your destination, you need to watch the way you drive. This is because the biggest population in the village, especially children do not know road rules and how roads are used.
“Children are not easily seen when you are driving because of their height. If you meet a group of two or three children, one could be on the left and the other two on the right. Do not move immediately if you had stopped or slowed down,” he says, adding: “The child who is alone will feel abandoned and will want to cross to join the colleagues. Others will see your vehicle and will want to touch it. If you do not have another passenger in the car to help you, hoot and chase them away because you may end up knocking them. He also cautions you to watch out for village drunkards who might just enter the road.
Safety for pedestrians
Those in Kampala, because of the need to move swiftly, usually use motorcycles or boda bodas. These need to consider using helmets for protection in case anything happens. As a pedestrian, after enjoying a night out, as you head back home, look out for motorists and if possible, wear clothes that have reflective stripes at night to avoid being knocked by motorists.
Never assume you have been seen by the driver and avoid getting distracted by anything when walking or crossing the road. Do not walk halfway across the road, walk to cross completely.
Become a speed governor
As a passenger, you should get a transport service worth your money. Do not be scared to caution your driver if he is over speeding. If it is too high, advise him to reduce speed because it is your right and your life at risk.
“It should be prudent that you do not call a toll free number about your driver’s speed. When you are about two or three passengers, approach the driver and the conductor and ask them to slow down. You need to become an immediate speed governor. If you call police, by the time it stops the vehicle, maybe the accident will have occurred because the driver continued misbehaving and caused an accident,” Amanyire says.
He adds that you should not be scared of other passengers because some encourage drivers to go beyond the recommended speed.
Drive within recommended speeds
Because you have taken long without travelling to your village does not mean that you drive too fast because you want to reach fast. Remember, you are driving upcountry not for an emergency but for the festive season celebration. It is, therefore, recommended to take your time. It is better to reach in one piece than in pieces or not at all.
The maximum speed of a Public Service Vehicle (PSV), which includes commuter taxis and buses, is 80 kilometres per hour while the maximum speed for private vehicles is 100km/hour.
“If you are a driver of any of these vehicles and you go above these speeds, once caught, you will be issued a penalty receipt of Shs200,000 and it must be paid on spot,” Ssebambulidde says.
Do not drink and drive
Driving at night is dangerous because there are trucks, trailers and buses on the road. Sometimes, they break down. If you are to drive at night, drive very cautiously. Besides, trucks and trailers have bright lights that can limit your vision. By the time you remember to stop, you would have rammed into them.
Amanyire observes that because you are to drive to the village the next day does not mean that you drink up to midnight and wake up at 6am to drive.
The alcohol will not have left your system and this means that you would still be impaired yet driving on a highway or longer distances calls for high levels of alertness.
Condition of vehicle
In late November 2018, Amanyire recalls a Link bus that overturned in Kasese and injured more than 20 passengers due to brake failure. It is from this incident that he recommends spending some money to have your car inspected at SGS stations along major roads before driving to the garage for service, just like you spend during the festive season. This is because inspection machines reveal a lot of mechanical issues that are hard to be detected, or seen by a mechanic. When you go to the garage, it becomes easier because you know what needs to be serviced.
The major car parts you must service include tyres, which he says should possess a minimum of 1.6 millimetres, brake efficiency, vehicle suspension and vehicle alignment, engine belts, indicators and wipers, among others.
Avoid over excitement
By virtue of the fact that you are driving out of Kampala for Christmas does not mean that you should get excited. At the end of the day, speed may excite but it kills instantly, especially if you are on a highway.
As a directorate, Ssebambulidde warns that major highways will still maintain traffic or Fika Salama checkpoints for motorists to drive within the recommended speeds, especially on Masaka and Gulu roads, breath analysers during the day, speed guns and permit readers to ensure there are no motorists with forged permits.
“We are doing all this because we do not want to record any road crashes during this festive season,” he adds.