Sunday, December 5, 2010

New Driving Freedom and its Effects

With the new economic and mobility freedoms enjoyed by Angolans now after the many years of civil war, there has been an explosion of road traffic.  Drivers with economic means are now able to experience the ability to drive their vehicles to different provinces on vastly improved roads, in addition to the the compounding increase in motorcycle and public road transport for the middle and lower economic class populations.

This increase in road traffic has not only brought unbelievable 'road confusion' in the urban areas, but has also lead to an astronomical number of road injuries and deaths.  In a Global Status Report on Road Safety for 2009 published by the World Health Organization, Angola was listed as 7th in the world in accordance to the rate of traffic deaths.  The WHO report for 2009 lists Angola as experiencing 37.7 deaths per 100,000 people and having 2358 traffic deaths.  Comparatively, the USA and Canada have road death rates of 13.9 and 8.8 respectively.  While these figures in 2009 do not list the number of traffic injuries per capita, a preliminary WHO report for Q1 - Q3 of 2010 list Angola as having the 3rd most traffic injuries per capita.  Non scientifically, the CEML Hospital medical staff are seeing a greater percentage of interned patients as those suffering from injuries experienced from either motorcycle or car accidents.

In order to combat the growing trend of road accidents, the Angolan government issued a new Highway Code in 2009, which has divided society. On one hand, the new code is seen as a good measure taken by the Government as it will educate some of the drivers who are less attached to life. Nevertheless, the legislation contains costs that not everyone is able to meet. The compulsory use of seats for children under twelve, may be an example. There are now well informed thieves who have begun stealing these items each of which costs around 30 thousand Cuanza (approximately 385 USD at the date this piece was published).

The new highway code also imposes the use of seat belts and child seats as well as dictating the mandatory use of helmets for motorcycle drivers (laws normally applied in most all western societies). Fines applied tend to be heavy. However, most drivers choose to ignore the law. This fact, coupled with the country's poor road conditions in some areas, is causing congestion and situations of risk for those using public roads. Some say that when you learn how to drive in Angola, then you can drive anywhere.  (Excerpts from WHO Global Status on Road Safety 2009, 2010; Global Voices - Angola, a New Highway Code in Action)

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