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Safe Boda; Can the Initiative Curtail Uganda's Death Trap?

Kampala metropolitan area alone is estimated to have between 50,000-80,000 motorcycles as travelers opt for them over public service vans and buses. Several travelers say bodabodas are fast and convenient because they easily stroll through Kampalas bumper-to-bumper traffic and potholed roads.
13 Jun 2016 13:55
Most of the passengers especially the ladies are not comfortable using the helmets despite their availability.

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When Bob Onencan was involved in a motorcycle accident six years ago, his world crumbled. With a family that looked to him as the sole bread winner, he had to endure loss of income and weeks of admission after surgery and treatment. Before the accident, Onencan was earning an average of 20,000 Shillings a day.

Such, is the ordeal of thousands of urban dwellers and motorcyclists who sustain injuries on a daily basis due to motorcycle accidents as the hired motorcycle industry commonly known as bodaboda continues to grow as a mode of transportation in Uganda.

Kampala metropolitan area alone is estimated to have between 50,000-80,000 motorcycles as travelers opt for them over public service vans and buses. Several travelers say bodaboda's are fast and convenient because they easily stroll through Kampala's bumper-to-bumper traffic and potholed roads.

But the same convenient mode of transport has become a death trap that is injuring and killing thousands every year. Statistics from the Mulago National Referral Hospital indicates that the facility records at least 15 accident victims on a daily basis. Most of these end up in surgery while at least two of them die on average every week.

But what causes these accidents?

The search for an answer is the basis for the basic training program for motorcyclists in which over 700 beneficiaries have acquired knowledge and skills in road safety and first aid skills since last year. It is delivered by Safe Boda Company, the Uganda Red Cross Society and the Uganda Police Traffic and Road Safety Department.

Damalie Wasukira, the communications officer at Safe Boda Company says that the training given to the riders ensures that they understand traffic regulations and are able to provide first aid whenever it is needed. The training is based on the fact that many motorcyclists in Kampala are ignorant or pay no attention to road regulations.

Wasukira adds that the intention is to transform the operations of motorcyclists into an organized and regulated industry.

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She adds that in order to ensure that the passengers are protected from unscrupulous riders who use the motorcycles to rob passengers; all trained riders are given identification jackets. The service also eases the service by giving passengers a chance to book for rides through a toll free number.

Onencan is one of the riders who took up the training after the accident and now boasts of the competence to understand how to use the road professionally.

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Francis Tumwine, one of the beneficiaries of the training says that the training on first aid improved his confidence and trust that he can save a life in case of an accident.

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Tumwine however says that the use of helmets as safety measure among passengers remains a challenge as many shun them over health and hygiene fears.

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Irene Namukasa, a waitress in one of the night clubs in Kampala says the initiative has helped to build confidence in the bodaboda industry. 

"I leave work at around 4am. At such a time; I cannot trust anyone to ride me home. So what I do is I call safe Boda toll free line so they tell me who is going to pick me. This way I am sure that nothing can happen to me on the way home," Namukasa says.

However, not all motorcyclists in Kampala have embraced Safe Boda. A number of them told Uganda Radio Network that the charges for the training are exorbitant. Safe Boda charges 200,000 Shillings for the two week program.

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