The sad tale of Gulu’s rising road carnage
On July 5, Pope Okii, a resident of Kabedopong Sub-ward in Gulu Municipality woke up in good spirits and headed to TASO Care centre to pick his daily medicines. At 10:00am, Okii was already at the facility and was duly served by those responsible. But the cruel hand of death didn’t allow him to take the medication as he was knocked down by a Fuso truck near Gulu Police station.
Eye witnesses narrate that Okii swerved into the middle of the road and hence became an unfortunate by meeting with faster moving vehicles, as indeed it happened when a Tipper Lorry registration number UAR 434E knocked him down.
Eye witnesses and fellow cyclists however blamed the deceased for being impatient.
Okii is not alone. He joins a long list of boda boda riders who have been involved in serious accidents, often because of their poor use of the road.
Ironically, the increase in accidents comes at a time when Gulu municipality is celebrating improvements in its roads. Observers point out that the municipality has also witnessed an increase in the number of boda boda cyclists.
Gulu Municipality alone currently boasts of over 4,000 boda boda riders.
Solomon Oringa Oteka from Laroo Division in Gulu Municipality and a friend to Okii, attributes the increase in boda-boda related accidents to ignorance about road rules among most boda boda cyclists coupled with impatience on the other hand.
“The roads are good now. The only challenge I see is that my colleagues are poor at joining roads, which is why you see most of the accidents occur at road junctions, “says Oringa.
He adds that disrespect for other road users by motorists is another reason for the rising number of accidents.
“For us as boda boda cyclists we sometimes find it difficult to use the narrow roads where pedestrians and motorists are reluctant to give way. Motorists take us for granted at junctions. They think cyclists and pedestrians should always give them way even when they are supposed to wait to join a main road,” adds Orianga.
Orianga further alleges that a number of motorists just decide to take their cars onto the road with out obtaining the necessary road skills or the papers.
According to police traffic reports, four people have died in fatal accidents in Gulu town in less than two weeks. Three were motorcyclists while one was a pedestrian.
Parick Jimmy Okema, the Aswa region police spokesperson told this reporter that the rate of road accidents in Gulu town is worrying because people have continued to lose their lives due to over speeding on the busy road and non-adherence to road safety rules.
“You find someone rushing to join a main road without looking left right, left and right again. These are simple things but they save lives.”
Okema adds that their findings on the rampant road accidents indicate a worrying trend of inconsiderate usage of the road and impatience by the boda boda riders to join the main raod.
“Our boda bodas are impatient. They are always in a rush. Over speeding is still a challenge. Some people think when they are using the road, it’s theirs alone. If you want to reach some where early, prepare in time so that you arrive safelyl, ” says Okema.
In the months of April and May, 22 people perished in road accidents in Aswa region: 8 were motorcyclists, 6 passengers, 8 pedestrians, while 77 sustained grave injuries.
Police also argues that the problem is being made worse by the increase in Gulu’s population against a stagnant number of officers to police the burgeoning population.
ACP Ssebambulide Charles, PRO Traffic and Road Safety insists that road accidents can be reduced if motorists respect other road users, boda boda riders have helmets, driving permits and always follow the traffic signs.
According to the national police reports, a total of 1,024 accidents were registered during the month of May 2017 and 129 accidents in the first half of June 2017.
Of 877 victims of accidents during the month of May; 170 persons died and 707 sustained injuries while 127 were victims of accidents during the month of June 2017, 53 persons died and 74 sustained injuries.