Boda boda accidents are on the rise, and so is the death toll, according to traffic police data. The carnage is taking a personal toll on the families and friends of those who die every day but calls for increased regulation of bodas in the city are dying quietly.
“The kill rate of productive Ugandans due to boda boda disorder is over 50 per cent; the City mortuary receives up to 40 bodies a day from boda boda-related accidents,” KCCA announced recently as the authority launched the campaign dubbed “Curbing the Crisis in Public Transport—Streamlining Boda Boda Operations in the Capital City.”
A recent boda boda census carried out by KCCA in collaboration with the ministry of Works and Transport found that 94 per cent of boda boda riders don’t have driving permits and insurance, 73 per cent have no log books, 98 per cent have no public service vehicle (PSV) licenses, and 234 riders don’t have national identity cards.
And out of thousands of riders in the city, “157 boda boda met all the requirements to operate public transport,” according to the KCCA statement.
This year, from January to September, about 1,422 people died in boda boda accidents. Of these, 1,021 were boda boda riders and 401 were passengers, traffic police data shows. That means 16 people die every three days, or 5.3 people die every day in on-the-road boda boda crashes.
“Whereas we had 1,021 riders killed in accidents, we also had 401 passengers killed in these accidents, which means at least 110 boda boda riders were killed every month,” Traffic Police spokesperson ASP Faridah Nampiima said recently during the weekly police briefing.
According to the 2021 Annual Crime and Traffic/Road Safety Report, 1,390 boda boda riders and 512 passengers died in road crashes. That brings the total tally of fatalities to 1,902 in 2020. That means 158 died every month and five daily from boda crashes in 2020. And the counting is still being done for this year.
According to the annual report, at least 17,000 accidents were registered in 2021, compared to 12,000 in 2020. About 4,159 people died in crashes last year, compared to 3,663 registered in 2020. The report found that 13,876 people were injured in the same period, and of the 1,005 fatalities in all vehicles, 528 were on motorcycles.
Nampiima said most of the victims did not have crash helmets. They hit their heads on the tarmac. Lawrence Nuwabiine, the acting director of Traffic and Road Safety, said at least 6,770 motorcyclists and their passengers suffered serious injuries in 2021, which is nearly twice the number registered in 2020.
“This means motorcycle accidents contributed to half of all serious injuries countrywide,” he said.
“Minibuses and buses had the fewest fatalities and injuries; only 29 people died and 151 others were injured.” he said.
Nuwabiine said most accidents were caused by indiscipline and reckless driving.
“A total of 336,722 traffic offenders were arrested for various offenses committed in 2021,” he added.
According to a survey done by the Uganda Road Fund in April 2022, only one in every 10 riders is trained by a professional instructor. According to the Daily Monitor, Safe Way Right Way (SRWR), on behalf of the Road Safety Coalition Uganda (ROSACU), released a report last month that showed that lack of crash helmets was a major contributor to road crash deaths involving motorcycles.
The study explained that over 69 per cent of riders who owned helmets, bought them along with their motorcycles. To protect motorcycle passengers, ROSACU members recommended that the ministry of transport draft a policy compelling motorcycle dealers to sell two crash helmets. ROSACU’s recommendation was based on the finding that only five per cent of passengers on motorcycles have crash helmets.
The ministry of Works and Transport, in partnership with the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and police, has embarked on a six-week training program for more than 50,000 boda boda cyclists. The training started on November 28. All riders will be required to pay Shs 60,000 for training at nine selected driving schools under the terms of the agreement.
Karim Kibuuka, the principal vehicle inspector at the ministry of Works and Transport, said the riders will be trained in traffic laws, highway codes (traffic signals, junction boxes, driving on urban roads and highways, fines and offenses, interpreting signals), riding skills, health and safety, and customer care, which will include price negotiations, client presentation, savings, mobilization, and investment, and crime prevention.
The training is aimed at curbing road accidents in the Kampala metropolitan area. According to police reports, boda boda is one of the major causes of accidents in the country, with at least four people dying due to motorcycle-related accidents daily. While addressing journalists at the Uganda Media Centre last week, the state minister for Kampala City, Kabuye Kyofatogabye, said they have already trained 10,500 riders and will now proceed to the inspector of vehicles for evaluation.
“After the training and competence certification, the Kampala Capital City Authority will fully register riders to operate in the city. This will also address the security aspect because everyone operating in Kampala will have a known identity,” Kyofatogabye said.
“Police have indicated that the insecurity in the city is largely driven by boda boda riders who can show up without notice and disappear quickly,” he added.
According to KCCA, out of the 60,000 boda cyclists in Kampala, only 157 meet all the requirements to operate public transport. The minister said riders who will not train will not be allowed to operate in Kampala.
The police have been impounding boda bodas whose riders do not have reflector jackets, helmets, or PSV permits. Last month, over 6,000 boda bodas were impounded. Nile Breweries Limited has launched a road safety campaign in Uganda to promote safer roads.
The Ondaba Road Safety campaign aims to raise awareness about road safety, support enforcement efforts, and strengthen post-crash care interventions across the country, particularly along the Kampala-Masaka highway, which has a higher fatality rate. NBL also gave out reflective jackets to boda boda riders at the Mpigi hospital boda boda stage. The phrase “Ondaba” or
“Do you see me?” urges all road users to be accountable and ensure there is discipline and courtesy on the road.
“We strive to impact and improve the welfare of communities. Safe roads are critical to the health and well-being of our colleagues, their families, and communities across the globe,” said Onapito Ekomoloit, the Legal and Corporate Affairs Director at NBL.
Mable Tomusange, the managing consultant at Consult Africa Usalama, the implementing partner for the Ondaba Road Safety Campaign, said awareness and training interventions will continue throughout the months of November and December.
“We shall be spreading Road Safety awareness in traditional media and social media and training Boda boda cyclists along a chosen area on Kampala-Masaka highway on road safety and post-crash care as well as painting zebra crossings and modification of black spot areas as advised by our partners,” said Tomusange.
“Our statistics are alarming. As a country, we must prioritize road safety awareness as a sustainable annual national campaign; it is the only way we will be able to address this challenge. The Ondaba Road Safety campaign in particular aims to create awareness on road safety and post-crash care killer syndrome that remains a neglected problem in Uganda,” she added.
The campaign is being done in collaboration with the ministry of Works and Transport, Uganda National Roads Authority, the Emergency Medical Services department at the ministry of Health.
Uganda has one of the highest road crash fatalities in the East African region.
According to Uganda Police Annual Crime Report 2021, there was an increase in road deaths by 14.9%, from 3,663 in 2020 to 4,159 in 2021, with over 12,000 people injured. Some contributing factors to road crashes in Uganda include over-speeding, reckless driving, and drunk driving.