By Mohamed Isah, (PDF Version)
Road traffic accidents cause huge economic losses to individuals, their communities, and the country as a whole . These losses arise from the cost of treatment as well as the loss of outputs for those killed or injured by these accidents, and boredom for family members who need to take time off duties to care for the injured . Road traffic accidents are a major but ignored global public health threat, requiring joined efforts for effective, prompt and sustainable prevention . According to WHO report 2017, road traffic injuries deaths in Cameroon reached 6,560 which are 2.97% of total deaths , approximately 1 of every 34 deaths.The age-adjusted death rate for road injuries is 35.06 per 100,000 of population, which ranks Cameroon number 28 in the world . According to government statistics, Cameroon records an estimate of 16,583 road accidents each year, killing over 1,000 people, and approximately 6000 according to WHO estimates. Approximately 18 people die of road traffic accidents each day, an average of 1 death every 80 minutes . This is particularly true for Cameroon where road infrastructures are generally considered very poor (90% poorly constructed and untarred).Up till 43% and 38% of deaths; especially in large cities are vehicle occupants and pedestrians respectively . The main question is how to prevent road traffic accident. But before then, it is necessary to elaborate on the causes.
Causes of Road Traffic Accidents in Cameroon
1- Human causes of road traffic accidents
Government statistics in 2019 indicates that human causes account for 70% of road traffic accidents in Cameroon , with driver’s inattention, excess speed, and poor driving skills (especially amongst drivers with no legal driving licenses and over 7000 drivers with fake licenses ) respectively accounting for most common causes. Inattention while driving and excess speeding seems to be on a rise with most cases occurring amongst youths 25years of age or less. Cell phones and music are common relentless distractions for many drivers. Let alone youths, eating, dancing and applying makeup while driving. So many accidents have happened in the country because the driver was on his mobile phone or trying to manipulate vehicle CD player drive while driving. Others are due to cases where the drivers had put on their headsets while driving.
2- Mechanical causes of road traffic accidents
Mechanical defects are also major aspects that are engaged in the Cameroon highway road accidents. Mechanical defects such as breaks failure and tire defect are registered aspects that are involved in cases of road traffic accidents in Cameroon. Government Statistics in 2019 showed that 20% of road traffic accidents in Cameroon are due to mechanical default . Most of the vehicles, especially public transport vehicle are over 15years of age with little or no maintenance.
3- Environmental causes of road traffic accidents
Environmental causes of road traffic accidents are also frequent registered causes of road accidents. Bad road conditions alone account for 10% of all road traffic accidents, according to official figures . In addition, lack of road safety signage is also accountable for environmental causes of road traffic accidents.
The Way Forward
Road traffic accidents cannot be completely stopped, but predictable causes can be prevented. Carrying out preventive measures and implementing and/or enforcing better road safety policies are key tools needed in portraying safer roads as elaborated.
For human causes of road traffic accidents
- Public education on safe road driving, bicycling, riding and walking. This can be done by putting in place programs through TV and radio stations specifically to sensitize the public on daily bases.
- Enhancing awareness of, legislating programs and laws governing speed limits, alcohol impairment, seatbelt use, child restraints, safety helmets, alcohol-impaired driving countermeasures, and laws against distracted driving.
- Enforce community designs that promote reduced traffic speeds in neighborhoods.
- Initiate a comprehensive graduated driver licensing systems for all drivers.
For mechanical causes of road traffic accidents
- The government should encourage only the importation of vehicles that are protective for occupants, pedestrians and cyclists such as those using daytime running lights, high-mounted brake lights, seatbelts and reflective materials on cycles, carts, and rickshaws.
- Care and vehicle users should equally read and understand their vehicle manual before driving.
- Also, preventing mechanical causes of road accidents should involve personal efforts by drivers or vehicle users . This include: checking their tires air pressure before any take-off, and making sure they are filled to the required level ; inspect for all indications of worn ,uneven tread and bulging ; checking their brake fluid ; checking their steering fluid levels, and have your car checked if notice any tightness or pulling; check transmission and engine fluid levels regularly, and alert mechanic to any changes in power or rough shifting; visually inspect any suspension, and have their shock absorbers or strut replaced if worn or damaged. Additional maintenance includes: check that their brake lights, hazard lights and make sure indicators are working properly, replace your windshield wipers regularly, and make sure to always fill the windscreen fluid to increase your visibility and make sure the windshield wiper functions well.
For environmental causes of road traffic accidents
- Private produced roads should be preferred to the government alternative. If the government was to go into a concession with entrepreneurs or engineers by sponsor road construction initiatives and allow further research in the field from them, then Cameroon would enjoy smooth roads with less congestion and fewer traffic crashes. This is a key aspect of the BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) experience .
- There should be the maintenance and improvement of traffic signs among major roads.Appropriately designed and maintained traffic signage’s can ensure the quality traffic flow along neighbourhoods and highways at defined speeds, thereby reducing traffic congestion and subsequent accidents.
In conclusion, road safety is a shared responsibility. Eliminating predictable road traffic accidents in Cameroon requires commitment and informed decision-making by the government, industries, non-governmental organizations, international agencies and participation from different disciplines (road engineers, vehicle designers, law enforcement officers, health professionals, community groups and the entire population at large).