Disputing idea that women are the more vigilant drivers

Angela Malata (40),is a mother of four children married to Augustine Maro. She is a truck driver for almost ten years working as transit at Simba Logistic Company based in Dar es Salaam.

Angela always brags that she applies defensive mechanisms and has never been involved in a road crash.

She says defensive driving is a set of driving skills that allows you to defend yourself against possible collisions caused by bad driving, driving under the influence of alcohol, poor weather or having other skills and techniques that assist you in defending yourself in case of possible collisions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that road crashes account for approximately 1.24m fatalities globally and the leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 29 years.

It indicates that human error is the leading cause of road crashes by 76 percent, while defective motor-vehicles contribute 16 percent and poor roads infrastructure  constitutes  about 8 percent of road crashes.

Malata says road crashes do not discriminate color, age, gender or ethnic group. “What is required is to follow traffic rules, guidelines and respect all road users especially pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

In its Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015, WHO indicated that about 65 per cent of deaths occur in Africa alone per year and 50 percent of all road traffic related deaths occur amongst vulnerable road users who are mostly pedestrians. They account for 39 percent of these deaths annually.

In Tanzania about 4,000 people die annually and over speeding is mentioned as the main factor in half of road deaths in all road crashes as per Tanzania police force data of 2017.

Angela has been driving for many years and noted that “as average speed increases, so does the likelihood of a fatal crash, so I  support  the idea of collective  efforts  to change the outdated  Road Traffic Act of 1973 amendment that includes provisions for national speed limits for greater impact to improve  road safety in general.”

In Tanzania, speed on the road is regulated by several laws (each catering for a specific purpose),, namely the Road Traffic Act of 1973, the Transport Licensing Act of 1973 and the Roads Act of 2007.

However, the Road Traffic Act of 1973 section 51 indicates that all vehicles must move at a speed of 50 kilometers per hour (km/hr.)When approaching or within a built up area such as schools, mosques, churches, market areas and hospitals. It does not matter if the area is an urban or rural area.

In any other area (not built up) speed is governed by road signs and road markings with exception of vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes which are permitted to speed up to a maximum of only 80 km/hr.

Angela mentioned some of the attributes of road crashes as reckless driving, over-speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, stress, fatigue and destructive driving such as using cellphones or texting while driving.

“Female are slow and more careful,” she said, elaborating that you hardly find a female driver driving under the influence of alcohol or over speeding.

She says driving is all about safety for all road users, preventing them from   death or injuries, pedestrians especially.

“Road traffic crashes affect the national economy at an average of three percent of the gross national product: so I’m supporting Road Traffic Act Amendment not only to save lives, but also help our economy to grow.”

Another transit driver, Haruna Ismail (38), working for Aquarius Road Haulage disagreed with the notion that female drivers are better than men.

“It is not right and quite misleading,” protested Ismail, saying  “the ratio of female transit drivers is minute countrywide, so how can one reach  that conclusion?”

Ismail says road crashes occur for a number of reasons such as speeding, changing lanes without looking, tailgating other motorists, ignoring road signs and fatigue.

“In my opinion, all drivers should participate in refresher training courses so that the inevitable bad habits acquired can be rectified accordingly at an early stage.”

Mary Makyao, an Assistant Lecturer at the National Institute of Transport (NIT) says that by nature female have inborn instincts of protection of life compared to males.

“Although female drivers are vulnerable to security risks especially transit drivers, they are generally careful when driving compared to male counterparts,” she says.

Makyao, who is head of Transport Safety and Environment Studies, admits that much as she has no concrete figures to substantiate her case experience indicates that male drivers are prone to be entangled *in road crashes than /female drivers because of risks behaviors such as indulging in drive and drink, non-use of seat belts and over speeding.

Whilst, “Female have a positive behaviors; they seemed to be more focused while driving and obedient contrary to male drivers. It is from that point that women have ability to sustain pressure in different environments,” she explains.

However, according to the US National Highway Safety Administration, men cause 6.1 million accidents per year and women cause 4.4 million accidents annually.

Also the Federal Highway Administration indicates that on average, men drive 16,550 miles and women drive 10,142 miles per year.

That means male drivers have about 30 percent more miles that women. Yet, they are implicated in slightly less that 30 percent of car accidents. Male cause more accidents but are actually less at risk than women by a small margin.

In his view, Henry Bantu from the Safe Speed Foundation says female drivers have consistency of mind and if trained rightly they come up to be good drivers.

Unlike females, male drivers tend to be miscellaneous in thinking, as by nature male drivers are risky, he says.

In the same vein, Gerald Seperius (45), employed by Awadhi & Co Limited as a driver for the past ten years says females  expose their weaknesses compared to male drivers.

“I disagree with the argument as female drivers are few in number,” he says.

Equally important, he emphasizes that after travelling for ten hours drivers must stop and rest until the following day.

He however observed that there are some drivers who do not take resting time for various reasons. Some are in a rush to reach their destinations so that they get a bonus on salaries and others  tend to over-speeding in order to compensate wasted time in socializing along highway bars.

“It is helpful to borrow a leaf from our neighboring Zambia’s traffic rules  which provide that no driver is allowed to travel after 21.00 hours and the speed limit allowed is 80-100 kilometers per hour.”

In Tanzania for instance, a driver exceeding speed limits is charged 30,000/- while in Rwanda the charge is 40 Rwandan Francs and 300 Zambian Kwacha for drivers caught overspeeding.

“If all road users respect traffic rules seriously and other road users, I’m sure there will be no accidents in the country,” he asserted.

Dr Godfrey Sansa, a lecturer from the University of Dar es Salaam - Centre of Disaster and Risk Mitigation notes that many people do not adhere to road safety principles despite a rising number of road crashes.

Data shows that most people dying or injured are male and “female are left behind as widows with children to take care of using meager resources, that’s why we really  need to change archaic road safety laws for greater impact to improve  road safety in Tanzania.”

John Jones, a member of the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety Tanzania,highlighted that the world has rallied around the United Nations Decade of Action 2011-2020 seeking to ensure that 50 percent of UN members put in place effective road safety laws which address key risk factors in road safety

The risks factors are speed, drink driving, lack of helmet use, absence of seatbelts and child restraints – where action to improve road safety should be integrated into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 16.2). This portion echoes the overall objective of reducing deaths from road crashes by 50 percent by 2030.

Goal 3 of SGDs centers on ensuring healthy lives and the promotion of well-being for all people. Specifically, this goal seeks to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2030.

“You can easily see here that improving road safety will go a long way in assisting the country meet these goals,” he emphasized.

Although there are laws on road safety, that do not meet international standards thus compromising safety of road users. But what is troubling the country most is weak enforcement and clear gaps in regulations.

The Bloomberg expert said that legal deficiency is among a number of factors which contribute to road accidents. The major setback is the lack of one coherent law to govern road safety issues.

“In my opinion, there are strengths in these laws but there are also glaring gaps and weaknesses which should be addressed if we want to improve safety in our roads.”

He notes for instance that the legislation which puts control on speed limits gives the minister uninhibited powers to set regulations controlling speed. This assures the country of regulations which can be used to control accidents, ensure road safety and reduction in accident risks.

But, on the other hand, experience shows that ministers have not exercised these powers effectively.

Advocate of the High Court, John Seka says the minister responsible for road safety can regulate speed if there was a need to change the speed limit of 80 km/hour but currently, there is no need to do so.

“So far there is no need to change the available speed limit. In case there is, the minister can do so,” he says.

In the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the speed limit agreed is 100km/hour while in the East Africa Community (EAC)zone it is 80km/hour, he added

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