Is it true to say that Alive Live is the best slogan for Uganda road safety measures? Uganda road travel is recorded among the worst in the whole world. There are entire books written on the nasty things that can affect you when you are living or traveling in Uganda – crazy worms that nest in your skin or parasites that honeymoon in your liver.
Most of these things are pretty tough to get if you take reasonable precautions as outlined in the majority of Ugandan health literature.
However, one risk that poses an especially major threat to travelers and residents alike is road traffic incidents.
Death and serious injury from road crashes are among the greatest risks for healthy travelers journeying in Uganda.
Worldwide, over 3,000 people are killed every day in road traffic crashes and hundreds of thousands of others are severely injured. Ninety percent of these injuries occur in low- and middle-income countries; high-income countries have made incredible improvements in road traffic safety over the past 50 years.
A quick appraisal of Uganda’s roads can qualify the truth behind these numbers: substandard (if existent) pedestrian walkways, limited safe street crossings, potholes, broken car lights, etc. To be fair, many agencies and organizations are working on improving road structure and safety in Uganda, but the process is slow and naturally occurs over the course of many decades.
What can you do to protect yourself from a road injury?
So you can stay healthy enough to hike the Rwenzori mountains of the Moon, explore Kampala nightlife, or even just lay on the beach at Lake Bunyonyi in southwestern Uganda?
• For starters, you can avoid night travel, especially in between towns. Traveling in the dark can be dangerous for several reasons, including limited road visibility, the absence of lights on many vehicles and hard-to-see pedestrians.
• When you are traveling on foot, avoid walking where you cannot be seen. Always try to walk on a sidewalk, and walk on the side against traffic so the cars closest to you are approaching from in front, not behind – in Uganda this is on the right side. The majority of cars do not stop for pedestrians, so even if you believe you should have the right of way, you must cross with great care. At night, make sure that you wear reflective, bright clothing – yellows, oranges, and whites are best. Remember that most road fatalities are pedestrians. BE VISIBLE.
• Learn about local holidays and seasonal hazards that affect road travel or road conditions. Local holidays may be a time when there are more cars on the road and an increased likelihood of drivers driving under the influence. Seasonal hazards in Uganda include the rainy seasons when previously passable roads can become impassable and road conditions deteriorate.
• Try to understand the local road culture. In Uganda, there are very few traffic lights, stop signs or crosswalks, making driving or walking a challenge. Motorized vehicles often swerve to avoid potholes or each other. Whether you are walking or driving, being aware of the road culture can help to keep you and others alert and safe.
• Expect the unexpected. Always give yourself enough time while traveling so that you don’t feel in a hurry or that you have limited choices for safe travel. The vehicle you’re riding in might get a flat, there could be a detour, there could be 25 people – and two chickens – shoved in your matatu, or the rains might start. Give yourself enough time to be able to make safe choices.
• Lastly, share the road. Roads in Uganda are used by many different kinds of travelers – motorcycles, pedestrians, cars, commercial trucks, bicycles, and animals. Ever-increasing numbers of road users are affecting traffic patterns and congestion, but each of these groups of users has a right to the roads and contributes to the growth and development of the country. Look out for other road users. Increased traffic should bring life into a community, not death.