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Community Policing to Improve Road Safety in Uganda

By Margaret Sevume

The 24 hour SMS Saferoad Platform is the brainchild of Mr Green Mugerwa, a Road Safety Information Awareness Activist. It is hosted by the Lots Global Villages, an innovative knowledge sharing website found at www.lotsbusinesslinks.com/uganda, with the motto “We Make the Internet a Community Development Platform”.

Mr Mugerwa has shared this solution with the I-Network Dgroup with an aim to engage network members as ICT experts, enthusiasts and sympathisers to participate in reducing accidents in Uganda.

24 hour SMS Saferoad is a mobile phone-web based application that enables users of Passenger Service Vehicle (PSV) to electronically self-register, monitor and report irresponsible road users and or accidents as well as verify the validity of 3rd Party Insurance License stickers, validity and category of driver’s driving permits. This is done by sending a set of guided syntax to 7197 SMS short code.

At the onset of a journey, especially of the PSVs , the driver and all passengers would each send an SMS with the required specifics  to help validate driver and vehicle road worthiness and to place the sender at a particular location in case of unforeseen incidences like accidents. The driver’s SMS would include their name, driving permit number, Route, stage of origin, name and Telephone Number of next of kin. Likewise the Passenger would also send his/her name, driving permit number of the driver (this would be picked from a banner that should conspicuously be displayed), Route, stage of origin and Telephone Number of his/her next of kin.

Below are four of the five syntax used;

1. Checking the Motor Vehicle - Road worthiness

Saferoad[space]MV/MC Reg. No, and send to 7197

2. Self-Registration of Drivers  before onset of journey;

Saferoad[space]MV/MC Reg. No[space]Letter D[space]Driver Name[space]D/P No. of Driver[space]Route[space]Stage of Origin [space]Name of Next of Kin[space]Tel No. of Next of Kin[space]Sub County of residence[space]District of residence, and send to 7197


3. Self Registration of passengers  before onset of journey;

Saferoad[space]MV/MC Reg. No[space]Letter P[space]Passenger Name[space]D/P No. of Driver[space]Route[space]Stage of Origin [space]Name of Next of Kin[space]Tel No. of Next of Kin[space]Sub County of residence[space]District of residence, and send to 7197

Please note the importance of including Letters D for Drivers and P for passengers for ease of data management

4. Any concerned person can also report irresponsible road usage ;

Saferoad[space]MV/MC Saferoad Saferoad[space]MV/MC Reg.No[space] Irresponsible/Accident [space]Location[space]District, and send to 7197

Comments from Mr. Mugerwa:

Most Ugandans use Passenger Service Vehicles (PSVs) namely buses, taxis and motor cycles commonly known as Boda-Bodas. The most vulnerable road user group in terms of fatalities is passengers especially of PSVs. All public drivers especially Boda-Boda riders should invest in reflective vests as uniforms on which their details are displayed.  Taxi and bus drivers would give these jackets to their conductors to guide and assure transparency and accountability.

The reason one sends the name and telephone number of the next-of-kin to whom the 24 hour SMS Saferoad Platform sends an alert accident message is to speed up rescue and ease the follow-up process of accident victims who may be unconscious or suffer a memory lapse after an accident.

At Make roads safe Africa 2009 conference  in Dar es salaam,  Tanzania, the former Minister of Works and Transport ,  Engineer Nasasira’s submission said “ Analysis of accident statistics reports in Uganda indicate that the major cause of road accidents  is poor human judgment which accounts for about 80% of all incidences such as reckless driving, over speeding, inconsiderate use of the road, careless or ignorant pedestrians, incompetent drivers and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs” www.makeroadssafe.org/.../Africa%202009/john_nasasira.pdf).

The project will achieve its objective if various government bodies became partners which sadly hasn’t happened so far. Key partners include: Computerised Driving Permit Section in Ministry of Works and Transport, Transport Licensing Board (TLB) in Ministry of Works and Transport and Uganda Insurers Association(UIA).

Reactions from the I-Network dgroup members:

  • There is no guarantee that the SMS message will be delivered immediately, on time or even ever.
  • Due to a necessity to switch networks it is not known whether messages from different networks are given priority or are in fact sent when it is convenient., when there is less traffic.
  • SMS SAFEROAD could be having too many parameters making it inconvenient for users.
  • It can only be used by literate users who can send off a text message.(Ans: The platform is in the process of adding a voice message component)
  • Who is the recipient of the SMSs?  (Ans: Insurance Company, next of kin)
  • How much does it cost?  (Ans: Ugs 200-220/=)
  • For travellers who may make more than one journey in a day, how many of such SMS's can one send on the same day at the same cost? (Ans: One SMS is enough for the day)
  • At what point does the police get involved? (Ans: More collaboration still needed with the police)
  • Challenges with the next-of-kin issues where a family is travelling together and the mentioned person is also in the same vehicle.
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