Will new Highway Code tame traffic jungle?

Source: Will new Highway Code tame traffic jungle? | The Financial Gazette May 25, 2017

A PIRATE taxi makes an abrupt stop at an undesignated pick-up point in the middle of Harare’s Leopold Takawira Street.

A woman dashes into the crammed car which speeds off before the door is shut as police officers tried to throw spikes to deflate the vehicle’s tyres.

In the ensuing commotion, pedestrians scurried for safety in all directions.
Just a stone’s throw away, another chase is on as a commuter omnibus driver sped against traffic along the one-way Jason Moyo Avenue, with a police car in hot pursuit.

For a moment, vendors and pedestrians are distracted as they take time to watch the movie-style chase.
Suddenly, the commuter omnibus branched off into a sanitary lane and vanished.
It was yet another futile effort for the police as heavy traffic rendered any further chase dangerous.
These scenes are a mere snippet of the traffic jungle that the country’s roads, especially in the capital, have become.

Last year, the roads recorded 38 620 accidents, with 1 720 people losing their lives, while 11 379 were injured, according to the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
Statistics from the Central Vehicle Registry indicate that Zimbabwe has an estimated 1,2 million vehicles plying its dilapidated road network, that has become a real nightmare to navigate.
A spike in lawlessness on the country’s roads has reached endemic levels.

Central business districts have become the most dangerous places for shoppers and road users themselves.
Government’s recent attempts to, among other things, tame the traffic jungle by launching a new Highway Code to replace the old one, which had been in existence since 1972 when the vehicle population on the country’s roads was estimated to be less than 300 000, is therefore commendable.

Zimbabwe has adopted Southern African Development Community (SADC) road signs and signals, with motorists, cyclists and pedestrians expected to acquaint themselves with the new Highway Code.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Joram Gumbo, believes the new Highway Code will tame the traffic jungle.
He said the upgraded version of the Highway Code was a must-have for all road users.

“It has specific rules for categories of road users. I would like to appeal to all road authorities, all urban councils and rural district councils to ensure that they erect the new signs and signals and other devices as required by Statutory Instrument 41 of 2016 and the SADC design manual,” he said.
The new signs, which prohibit jaywalking and hitch-hiking, are expected to improve the flow of traffic.
The new Highway Code also has new signs and signals for passengers, pedestrians and animal-drawn carts that must also have reflectors.

According to the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ), the new road signs are currently being implemented with the newly-refurbished Plumtree-Mutare Highway pioneering the project.
Cities such as Harare, Mutare and Bulawayo have also started erecting the road signs, while some of the rural district councils may not be affected because they have no areas within their jurisdictions where such signage could be erected.

But many road users are still not aware of the new road signs, with some motorists professing ignorance about the use of the yellow box junctions that have so far been drawn at robot-controlled intersections along Harare’s Samora Machel Avenue and other roads.
A motorist, Admire Garwe, said he just saw the yellow box insignia, but no one has explained to him its function.

“I personally feel that the authorities should do awareness campaigns and road shows to conscientise road users about the new regulations,” said Garwe.
His views were corroborated by surveys done by the Passengers’ Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ).
PAZ president, Tafadzwa Goliati, said surveys carried out in Harare showed that some drivers, including driving school instructors, were not yet aware of the new rules.

…An estimated 1,2 million vehicles ply Zimbabwe roads

…Over 38 000 road traffic accidents recorded last year

“The main challenge now, as shown by our surveys, is that most drivers and instructors do not know anything about the new signs and regulations, so the new regulations may not have the desired effects,” said Goliati.

“For example, the box junction requires that no vehicle must enter the box when there is another car in the box. It was designed to avoid congestion, but it is not serving its purpose because people do not know its purpose,” he added.

A visit to some of the driving schools in the capital showed that the instructors were still struggling to teach prospective drivers about the new Highway Code and the situation has been exacerbated by unscrupulous traders who are still selling the phased out Highway Code on the streets.
An instructor with a driving school in Harare, Enock Mutimusakwa, said a lot more needed to be done to teach licenced drivers and prospective drivers about the new road regulations.

Although the new code is already in use, Vehicle Inspection Department chief inspector, Joseph Pedzapasi, said they have no immediate plans to review the learner’s licence test and the driver’s test since the new traffic infrastructure and road signs are yet to be put up.

“We have not yet started implementing the new regulations because the road signs are still very few. If you look around Harare and other towns, you will realise that there are no or few signs erected,” said Pedzapasi.

“It is a process, a very long process and we are only required to complete its full implementation by 2025, although our aim is to do it in the shortest possible period. We may start at town level going up depending on who would have made progress and we will take it from there.”
TSCZ managing director, Obio Chinyere, said they were seized with teaching members of the public about the new Highway Code.

“Recently, we were at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair teaching the public about the new Highway Code. We are also planning towards the global road safety week, where we will do roadshows,” he said. The Global Road Safety week was scheduled for this month from May 8 to 14

TSCZ spokesperson, Ernest Muchena, noted that the main objective of adopting SADC road signage was to assist drivers within the region to correctly interpret road rules to avoid accidents.

“Zimbabwe is a SADC member country and all other SADC member countries agreed that they should have uniform signage in the region after having realised that the movement of traffic within the region at times entails the driver to drive from a Portuguese-speaking country maybe into an English-speaking country, and sometimes (they come across) signage that maybe in a foreign language that they do not understand,” Muchena noted.