Wednesday, October 31, 2012

THE LEADING KILLER IN UGANDA – COMMERCIAL MOTOR CYCLES (BODA BODA)

Source: The Road Journal Issue: 007 Vol. 0101 of 2010 “Drug abuse and alcoholism have taken toll on commercial motor cyclists (boda boda) riders operation. Most of the riders seem to run on marijuana and booze while their motorcycles run on petrol. Therefore. There is dire need for Remedy to Passengers, Riders and challenge on side of Traffic Police.” Boda boda refers to the use of motor cycles and bicycles for public transport. The name was coined from the fact that the first bicycles and motorcycles to be used for public transport were at the border – Malaba because of the beehive of activity into Uganda and back into Kenya. All the statistics carried out by Police and the Injury Control Center in recent years show that users of boda boda and the riders themselves have been killed in more crashes than with all othervehicles. In fact, the trend is so bad that the enforcers of traffic safety regulations are lost for what to do to reverse the trend. According to Police Statistics from the Traffic Department, in 2008, out of 16,736 accidents, a total of 3,434 were caused by motor cycles and 1,001 by bicycles. The rest of the accidents were caused by 13 other factors combined. 47% of the accidents in that year were also caused by motor cycles and bicycles, which represent 99.9% for boda boda and 1% for private use. The trend was even worse in 2009 and continued to slip in 2010. The question is, Why is boda boda dangerous to such a level? The sheer numbers of the boda boda makes them a factor in as many crashes as possible. If there are millions of them plying the roads and the ratio to the vehicles is like 1:5, the calculation is that for every single accident, there are five times more chances that a boda boda is involved than a car. Hypothetically, if boda bodas were to swell and become cars, Uganda would gring to a halt. There would simply be no space for anyone to move. In urban centres, boda boda is so common that there is a joke that some people use them to move from room to room in their houses. They are everywhere! Boda boda is also dominated by boys who have not had good education or no education at all. Some drop out of school or run away from home to join the trade because of the need for quick and easy money. None of them is concerned that they might earn a coin today but will not live to eat it the next day. Lack of formal education means that they will also find it necessary to undergo proper training to ride This is the biggest single problem making boda boda such a dangerous means of transport. Most boda boda are self taught. Even the few who have permits simply pay money to dubious operatives who issue them the permits without subjecting them to test. And obviously many of the permits are forgeries. If traffic police does not approach the problem of boda boda accidents starting from the point of a specialized training unit for boda boda, the safety campaign on the roads will never bear fruits. Drug abuse and alcoholism are also taking a toll on boda boda operation. Most of the riders seem to run on marijuana and booze while their motor cycles run on petrol. Intoxication is universally known to impair the sense of direction of any body operating machines and vehicles. With boda boda, it is worse because they are two wheeled and balancing a motorcycle when one’s brain is knocked out of booze is no way to guarantee safety. For sure, there are some riders who crash and die not knowing that an accident has happened because their minds are upside down. Unfortunately, when you are a passenger of such a rider, you also die for no reason. Other than the influence of drugs, the boda boda riders are leaders in the naughty art of reckless and careless riding. The tendency to over speed has curtailed their reasoning capacity. They don’t ride, they just swoop! For them, the most important part on their motorcycle is the accelerator. The brake, the indicators, the side mirrors come as distant priority which they would rather not use. In the earlier years say the late 1990s, the manufacturers of the MATE and BAJAJ motor cycles which were the most used had speed limits on their machines not going beyond either 60kms/hr or 80 – maximum speed. That is no more. Today’s bikes are so powerful that none has a speedometer limit of less than 120km/hr. There is also no designated type of motorcycle to use for boda boda. In a bid to outcompete one another, some riders bring on the road sports bikes that have speed limits like those of cars. The recklessness is however hinged mainly on the desire for the riders to make as much money from the small things as possible. Boda boda is about making money and money has made the whole trade mad. When you see a boda boda cruising on the pavements, on the wrong side of the road, making U-turns in the middle of the road and beating the red lights, it is not witchcraft. Survival for the fastest is the game. The more trips made in a day, the more money made. And, we must add, the more death on our roads! Each rider needs a given amount of money daily like all other workers. They also have families, they also eat, they dress, they have to build houses like the rest. Worse is when one is riding a motorcycle belonging to a boss. The boss wants between 6,000 and 10,000 shillings everyday. Fuel requires shs 5,000 daily, shs 2,000 for lunch, over shs 5,000 for the rider himself and ignoring some other costs like repairs, daily stage charges and so on. An individual must virtually squeeze not less than shs 25,000 from the motro cycle every single day! This is what differentiates boda boda from private motor cycle owners who use them for their own transport. Private riders constitute a very small percentage of the road crash statistics compared to the commercial operators. The boda boda economy in Uganda is amazing considering how much money rotates in the hands of Ugandans in relation to the use of that means. Boda boda is development but its developmental influence will only be real whensafety is treated as the key to its use. Poor mechanical condition of the boda boda is also common. Some of them are total write-offs but the riders must keep them on the road for survival purposes. Some of them don’t brake while others fail to start in the middle of jam! Most of such offenders do not work during day time. Together with those having no permits, they prefer to work at night when traffic cops are off the roads which doubles the risks altogether. Boda boda is proving to be a lawless industry where preservation of life is secondary to money making if we continue looking on. Their disregard for other road users is contagious. Some accidents involving motorists arise from the confusion of the boda boda. When driving, you can never know from which direction a boda boda will appear. At one point you can see him in the side mirror, at another he is riding ahead of you; at another he`is in one lane, shortly after in the wrong lane. In an attempt to dodge him, you either overturn your vehicle or collide with on coming traffic. A visit to Mulago hospital shows that the biggest number of casualties admitted and the dead are victims of accidents involving boda boda.

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