Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Botswana not investing enough in road safety

An African Development Bank (AfDB) road safety report cites Botswana as one of the countries that has failed to fund significant and effective road safety programs that will deal with increasing traffic volumes.

“Typically where vehicle ownership is increasing markedly with economic development, it is expected that crashes and casualties will increase in relationship with growth in traffic. This is especially true in Middle Income Countries (MICs) if the significant and effective programs needed to counter the road safety problems associated with increasing traffic volumes and roads trips are not being funded,” says an AfDB manual on road safety that the bank has developed as part of its overall approach to improving road safety in Africa.

The manual then quotes figures from Botswana that show patterns in crashes by severity in Botswana from 1994 to 2008. The rise in casualty injuries is particularly pronounced for fatal and minor injuries in that period, with the former peaking in 2004 and the latter almost doubling from a low of 3414 in 1994 to 6183 in 2008. Serious injuries peaked at 2029 in 1999, dipped to a low of 1237 in 2006, then rose sharply and in 2008 numbered 1522.

The manual says that where conflicts between pedestrians and cars are possible, the speed at which most will survive is 30 kilometres per hour; where side impacts are possible at intersections (like at cross roads and T-intersections), the speed at which most will survive is 50 km/h; and that where head-on crashes are possible (like where there is no median separation), the speed at which most will survive is 70 km/h. A road is considered ‘safe’ (or survivable) for run-off road crashes if it has a speed limit not higher than 50 km/h, or a safety zone of at least 4 metres and a speed limit not higher than 70 km/h, or a safety zone of at least 10 metres and a speed limit higher than 70 km/h.

“These principles are not necessarily speed limit suggestions, but a guide to managing conflict points on a road network,” the manual says.

The Bank finances road infrastructure, its main project in Botswana currently being the P2.54 billion Kazungula Bridge and Border Project being undertaken by the latter country and its neighbour, Zambia. The project comprises the construction of a road bridge over the Zambezi River, border facilities in each country and approximately 10 kilometres of bridge approach and access roads. The bank is contributing 31.5 percent of the total cost.

Through the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, East African Community and the Southern African Development Community (COMESA-EAC-SADC) Tripartite, the bank has also initiated process to rehabilitate the 64-kilometre Nata-Pandamatenga and the 111-km Martins Drift-Palapye roads. The money will be drawn from the NEPAD Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility which the bank hosts. At this stage, the work is confined to preparation of feasibility studies and detailed engineering designs. The two roads are part of the North South Corridor (NSC) in Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Explaining its decision to develop the manual, the Bank says that it “has mainstreamed road safety to scale-up and consolidate its efforts to support comprehensive multi-sectoral road safety investments to reduce the increasing losses caused by road crashes.” The bank recommends that countries should undertake blackspot analysis, that being an exercise through which traffic police and road engineers identify locations on a road network where there is a concentration of crashes.

Africa takes the highest share of the road crash burden relative to its low level of motorization and road network density and experiences the highest per capita rate of road fatalities. Over 75 percent of the casualties are of productive age between 16-65 years; and the vulnerable road users constitute over 65 percent of the deaths. Road crash costs African countries 1-5 percent of their GDP every year.

“The situation demands African countries to increase their level of investment and attract international cooperation for financial and technical support on crash prevention and reduction measures,” the bank says.

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