Traffic penalties have earned the Ministry of Transport & Logistics half a billion Birr within nine months.

The figure was revealed as the newly appointed Minister Alemu Sime (PhD) presented his first nine-month performance report to the Standing Committee of Urban Infrastructure & Transport Affairs chaired by Shewit Shanka last week.

The 500 million Br collected nationwide from four million violations as part of the ongoing effort to decrease traffic accidents, according to Jemal Abaso, CEO of the Road Safety & Insurance Fund.

While the report from the Ministry suggests deaths from traffic accidents during the period was 1,574, prior reports by Bloomberg Global Roads Safety Initiative and the Insurance Fund set the death toll at almost twice as much.

The Ministry had conducted sudden technical inspections on over 137,000 cars.

"Serious gaps exist in the technical inspection of vehicles," said Jemal suggesting that the certifications were being distributed outdoors.

The CEO indicated that young drivers with insufficient experience and in a rush to make ends meet set forth by the vehicle owners contributed a significant portion to traffic accidents.

He also believes that the competence of driving schools should be regulated, pointing the mandate to the Ministry of Labor & Skills.

Experts attribute the situation to a character flaw more than a lack of skills.

Debebe Tenaw, manager at Safety Driving School and author of a book on traffic safety with over two decades of experience in the transport sector agrees that drivers who are trying to make a quick buck by hauling through hundreds of kilometres within a few hours are huge contributors to the high number of accidents. He reasons that fatalities are bound to occur if 20 people are cramped in a 12-seater vehicle.

The expert acknowledged that imported vehicles which had their steering wheel on the right side originally could contribute to accidents. However, he argues that the proliferation of driving schools has actually brought down the number of traffic accidents per 10,000 which used to be above 100 a mere two decades back.

He believes the solution lies in the targeted character development of professionals in every sector, as disregard for the integrity of human life is too common.

"Penalizing drivers won't bring the desired result," Debebe told Fortune.

He recommends that comprehensive record keeping of traffic violations combined with the continuous character development of all professionals on the dignity of individuals will lead to lower traffic accidents.

With close to 130,000 cars entering the streets yearly, proper management of third-party insurance which has registered 614,923 cars and strict safety regulations were indicated as top priorities by officials from the Ministry.

Sani Mohammed is a driver who manages a pharmaceutical supply company and spends most of his days driving around the capital. He observes that most public transport service providers constantly rush while fully packed in technically subpar vehicles.

"The problem is not related to skills," he said.

The 30-year transport road map put forth by the Transport Ministry was also discussed in terms of decreasing the number of traffic accidents per 10,000 which stands at around 26, to an internationally acceptable 10pc in the long run.

Alemu reflected on the smart traffic management system, electronic ticketing and GPS systems being placed in public transport services as the long-term trajectory when discussing further efforts to integrate and modernize the country's logistics and transport sector.

"Digitization is the only viable future," he said.

The sentiment was also reiterated by State Minister Bereo Hasen, who remarked that the Ministry has taken disciplinary measures against 3,000 drivers who exploited fuel subsidies due to digital systems' use.

The Chairwoman of the Standing Committee concluded the session by emphasizing the need to emulate other developed countries in how they have managed to decrease the death toll from traffic accidents while generally praising the Ministry's performance.

"Even one lost life is too many," said Shewit.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 29,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1200]

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