Malawi Police Service (MPS) has reported that road traffic accidents in the country sharply increased by 35 out of every 100 in 2018 to 4 879 cases compared to 3 626 recorded in 2017.
But, while there were 2 459 deaths on the roads in 2017, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera yesterday declined to give the number of people who died this year in road accidents, saying Inspector General (IG) of Police Rodney Jose will make the announcement at a New Year’s Eve party in Lilongwe.
Speaking in Mzuzu at an end of year event on Saturday evening where he represented the IG, Senior Deputy Commissioner of Police Stan Kaliza said 2018 was more challenging in terms of road traffic management as the country recorded more accidents compared to 2017.
Without disclosing the number of fatalities, he said the road traffic accidents led to deaths of many people, thereby negatively affecting their families and national development. He said most of the accidents could have been avoided.
Said Kaliza: “With a heavy heart, I inform you that Malawi continues to experience increased incidents of road traffic accidents. The accidents led to deaths of a lot of people and great losses to families and government.”
He said police will in the New Year 2019 double efforts to minimise road accidents and ensure that people’s lives and property are saved. He said successful implementation of the strategies would require the cooperation of the public.
Kaliza urged motorists to drive responsibly and share the road with other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists.
He mentioned exceeding the speed limit, driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to observe road signs and other malpractices as major contributing factors to the rise in road accidents.
Kaliza also said use of unroadworthy vehicles and unlicensed drivers were other challenges frustrating efforts to reduce road accidents.
In 2016, the country recorded 1 112 deaths from 962 fatal road accidents.
But while police and Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS) blame human error for 80 percent of the accidents with weather and infrastructure challenges accounting for the remaining 20 percent, a Nation Publications Limited (NPL) investigation in 2017 established that loopholes and corruption at the traffic directorate also worsen the situation.
The investigation established that unqualified people are able to get driver’s licences while unroadworthy vehicles ply the roads using counterfeit permits or certificates of fitness dubiously issued for vehicles not examined.
In July this year, data The Nation sourced from MPS showed that the number of road traffic accidents almost tripled over the past five years, killing about 1 300 people annually.
Worldwide, road accidents kill 1.25 million people and injure 50 million annually.
In the area of crime management, Kaliza said cases reduced by nine percent in 2018 at 39 331 compared to 43 159 cases in 2017.
He said cases such as robbery, theft of cattle and general theft reduced significantly while housebreaking, theft of motor vehicles, rape and defilement were on the rise. But he attributed the rise in defilement and rape to increased awareness campaigns that encourage people to report to police such offences.
“Murder cases slightly reduced from 527 to 524, robbery cases reduced from 1 852 to 1 702, theft of cattle has reduced from 608 to 516 while general theft has gone down from 9 956 to 8 718.
“On the other hand, breaking cases increased from 7 262 to 8 219, rape cases increased from 129 to 187, defilement from 1539 to 1 515 while theft of motor vehicles went up from 40 to 58 cases,” said Kaliza.
In his remarks, Northern Region Commissioner of Police Hannings Mlotha urged people to be more careful on the roads, saying sometimes people tend to get excited while driving, cycling or walking on the roads.
He said there is also need for community engagement to ensure that road accidents and crime are reduced.
“The police can only work efficiently if there is community participation in the fight against road accidents and crime,” said Mlotha.
Turning to the men and women in uniform, he appealed for more professionalism, saying the public would only be willing to support the police if they conduct themselves well. He said some officers engage in immoral practices which discourages the public.
During the commemoration of Africa Road Safety Day in Karonga on November 24, DRTSS said Malawi has lost about 4 000 people in 3 480 fatal road accidents in four years.
To curb rising road traffic accidents, DRTSS said it is implementing a Road Safety Awareness and Traffic Law Enforcement project with support from the World Bank. The project has seen the directorate purchase 10 patrol vehicles targeting various roads, including the M1 Road.