The blight of reckless drivers

Editorial, Normal

The National, Friday 10th Febuary 2012

THE harrowing tale of an early morning journey by a man, his wife and young daughter ending with him a crumpled and lifeless heap on one of Port Moresby’s main roads brings up a troubling reality about motorists in the nation’s capital.
A good number of them are ignorant about the dangers posed by getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol.
Onapimo Isaac, a headmaster of a primary school in Central province, quite cruelly and tragically had his life cut short on Wednesday just after 7am.
A heavily intoxicated female driver of a Honda CRV heading north-bound on Waigani Drive veered off its course, hitting Onapimo and hurling him to his death against an embankment a short distance before the tunnel roundabout.
Police personnel, who fortuitously happened to be in close proximity to the incident, acted quickly to quell what would have been an incendiary situation. Had shocked onlookers decided to turn on the occupants of the offending vehicle, then, there most likely would have been more than one fatality that morning.
Car accidents and traffic collisions in urban settings especially in Port Moresby seem to be occurring with uncomfortable regularity. Not a weekend goes by without one or several crashes happening. You can see the result of reckless driving everywhere in the city. The roads and the areas immediately adjacent to them are becoming deadly strips of asphalt and concrete, not only for people travelling in cars from day to day, but those innocently walking alongside them.
Something needs drastic needs to be done.
The authorities charged with keeping our roads in NCD safe for all its users are failing everyone. People are no longer capable of using the city’s roads in a safety-first manner and driving with due care and consideration for their fellow road users. The traffic police face a daunting task of corralling the teeming number of cars on the road. They are out-numbered and out-manned to the point of being irrelevant.
This is a particularly scary proposition when one considers the rate of growth and development in the nation’s leading urban centre. This concern has been raised before and will no doubt be raised again – the roads in this town cannot cope with the volume of traffic. With the upsurge in the number of motor vehicles in the city, one would logically surmise that so too must the capacity of the traffic authority be built up to cater for the load. This is not the case.
The law of the jungle prevails on the roads of Port Moresby. The police, traffic authority and municipal government must take firm action to curb this problem before more lives are lost. It is clear that several lines of action must be followed to manage our uncommonly dangerous roads. Firstly, the traffic registry which is the licence-issuing body has to be more professional in its assessment of potential drivers and not hand out licenses to all and sundry simply because that person has paid a fee and filled out a form. There has to be a better way of assessing and monitoring the fitness of an individual to drive. Also unroad-worthy vehicles must be removed from our streets, highways and lanes.
Owners need to appreciate that a faulty vehicle can turn into a dangerous weapon even in the most experienced hands.  It may cost tax payers more to improve the current system but we consider it money well spent. The regulating body must be effective. It is fair to conclude that judging by the number of people deliberately, and unsuspectingly, flouting traffic laws either they are not capable of driving properly or do not care, which is basically the same thing.
Secondly, we cannot stress enough the importance of police on our roads. If the law enforcement body is seen to be around, drivers and people in general are less likely to take risks or put themselves in compromising situations.
The police too must approach the issue of road safety intelligently and in a structured way. Setting up traffic stops at times and places when they are likely to catch out offending drivers is not a new thing. It is standard procedure and strategy the world over. Equipping and training police personnel and traffic officers with alcohol breath-testing equipment is something that should be seriously looked at.  
Lastly, town planners need to design our road networks with safety at the top of the agenda. Building roads simply to lessen traffic congestion and as aesthetic works of
art are counter-productive if people are being killed on them.