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Coverage of road safety should go beyond reporting accidents

Road accidents in the country are a critical concern. Among those who have recently voiced their perspectives are Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse, and the National Transport and Safety Authority. However, the divergent views presented by these institutions highlight a lack of consensus on the primary causes of road accidents, underscoring the need for a more comprehensive approach to address this multifaceted issue.

On December 20, last year IGP Koome was reported in the media as attributing road accidents to preventable human errors such as non-compliance with traffic regulations, defective vehicles, failure to use safety belts, speeding, driver fatigue, and driving under the influence of alcohol.

In contrast, on December 29 the EACC pointed a finger at corruption as the major contributor to road accidents. This perspective shed light on systemic issues within law enforcement and regulatory bodies that compromise road safety. Identifying corruption as a factor demanded a closer examination of institutional practices and the need for stringent measures to curb malpractices that continue to put lives at risk.

A day later on December 30  Nacada linked accidents to alcohol and drug abuse especially during the festive season. And on January 9, 2024, NTSA attributed the rise in road crashes to insufficient funding for road safety initiatives. The agency reported a 16.7 per cent increase in road fatalities as 84 people had lost their lives from January 1 to 7, 2024, compared to 72 in same period in 2023.

These diverse perspectives underscore the complexity of the issue, signalling a lack of a unified understanding of the root causes of road accidents. While each viewpoint contributes valuable insights, the absence of a consensus highlights the need for a holistic approach to tackling the multifaceted nature of this problem.

However, the media has failed to facilitate an informed public discussion. News coverage narrowly focuses on accident occurrences rather than delving into the broader aspects of road carnage. This failure leads to incomplete information, limited accountability, diminished public awareness, and a lack of advocacy for solutions.

A more robust media approach is crucial to fostering informed discussions, promoting accountability, and advocating for positive changes in road safety. By exploring various dimensions of the issue such as behavioural, institutional, infrastructural, and environmental factors, the media can play a pivotal role in shaping public opinion, influencing policy decisions, and driving positive changes in road safety.

In conclusion, addressing the complex landscape of road accidents requires collaborative efforts from government entities, law enforcement, regulatory bodies, and the media. A comprehensive approach that considers the multifaceted nature of the problem is essential to achieving meaningful change. The media must embrace its watchdog role by providing more nuanced and inclusive narratives that go beyond the mere reporting of accidents to encouraging more in-depth, informed and engaged public discourses.

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