MEMBERS of Parliament (MPs) have castigated politicization of road safety regulations enforcement, calling for tougher penalties against rogue bodaboda riders to reduce road crashes.
Speaking at a three-day workshop for legislators on sustainable transport organized by Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (Tawla), the lawmakers were vividly concerned over unruly behaviour by commercial motorcyclists, who are increasingly mushrooming across the country.
They implored fellow politicians not to interfere with traffic laws enforcement when the police rein in errant motorcycle riders, whom they accused of causing a chunky of fatal road crashes.
Lupa legislator, Victor Mwambalaswa said that despite the worrying trend of deadly crashes involving bodabodas, some political statements were not helping to curb the situation as they appeared to condone violation of traffic regulations by the riders.
“Many crashes are caused by errant motorcyclists, and there are perceptions that they’re backed by politicians. This should end if we want to curb these accidents.
Everyone, including the bodaboda riders should adhere to traffic rules,” said Mwambalaswa, who has been the MP for Lupa since 2005.
“Some of these riders wear earphones and listen to music as they ride on highways, it makes them lose concentration and that can lead to crashes,” he said.
Hawa Mwaipunga (Special Seats, Tabora) was concerned with the way riders carelessly operate their motorcycles, which jeopardized their safety as well as that of other road users.
“Unfortunately the riders, their passengers and other road users at great risk, and if any bodaboda is hit by a car, they mob attack the driver of the vehicle even if their fellow rider was at fault,” said Mwaipunga.
The lawmaker on the other hand questioned the way the Road Safety Week was being marked, saying the commemoration should be more than trading stickers.
“The week is apparently meaningless. The organisers should come up with solid interventions on how to improve road safety, including provision of relevant education on road use among different road users,” she added.
On the other hand, Mlalo MP Rashid Shangazi said that most motorcycle crashes were caused by reckless or negligent riding and called for tight enforcement of existing road traffic laws to raise compliance level.
He urged Tanzania to borrow a leaf from Rwanda, which he said had succeeded in regulating motorcycle business, with Rwandese riders voluntarily observing traffic rules and regulations.
“In Rwanda, only one dealer has been sanctioned to sell motorcycles and their spare parts, the riders must register their motorcycles and helmets, which bear similar registration numbers, that increases compliance level because it becomes easy for police to trace and arrest a motorcyclist whenever he violates traffic rules,” he said.
The legislator for Iringa Urban, Peter Msigwa implored traffic police officers to embrace professionalism and enforce traffic rules and regulations without fear or favour.
“Whoever is shielding bodaboda riders from legal measures for traffic offences should think twice. We should care about their safety and never condone any breach of traffic rules by these riders,” said Msigwa.
Tawla Executive Director, Tike Mwambipile urged the MPs to support legal and policy reforms, especially amendment of Road Traffic Act of 1973.
She said the proposed amendments considered six risk factors, which are responsible for crashes and serious injuries.
The risk factors are speed, drunk-driving, seatbelt use, helmet use, child restraints and the use of mobile phones and other gadgets by drivers.
The substantial growth in the use of motorized twowheelers in Tanzania is being accompanied by an increase in the number of head and traumatic brain injuries.
Road traffic crashes, injuries and deaths involving motorcycles has been a major public health concern and is putting a heavy burden on families, communities and the health system in general.
Over 8,000 people died from motorcycle accidents during the past 10 years (2009-2018), an average of 800 deaths a year, with 35,231 others seriously injured, according to data from Traffic Police Department