Monday, July 22, 2024

NRA and Its Parent Ministry Launch the “Arrive Safe” Awareness Campaign

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By: Alieu Jallow

The National Road Authority (NRA) and its parent ministry, the Ministry of Transport, Works, and Infrastructure, launched the “Arrive Safe” awareness campaign on Thursday, May 30th. The campaign was inaugurated on the Bertil Harding Highway, a significant infrastructural development that has raised concerns due to its high accident rate. Since the construction of the new six-lane road, 102 accidents have been reported as of January 2024, and this number is expected to rise.

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During the launch, Matarr Ceesay, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Transport, Works, and Infrastructure, highlighted the aim of the campaign, noting that it seeks to create awareness among individuals, communities, government offices, and private partners in a collective effort to create safer roads.

“By launching this campaign, we are taking another critical step towards reshaping road safety throughout the country. We are all road users – pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers – and therefore, we must all take responsibility. If we can take full responsibility by understanding the dangers, calling for action, and making a safety statement – such as buckling up, adhering to speed limits, driving sober, and not using a telephone while driving – then we can improve our own safety and the safety of those around us,” Ceesay outlined.

Every year, more than 1.35 million people die on the world’s roads, and millions more are seriously injured. This preventable epidemic hits the poorest hardest and is killing the next generation. It is reported that every 24 seconds, someone is killed on a road. The Gambia’s ranking improved from the 4th to the 8th country with the highest road traffic accidents in the world. Despite this progress, many road accidents continue to plague the small African nation.

Lamin King Colley, the commissioner of mobile traffic, called for a more robust mechanism to deter the high incidence of road accidents, citing the attitude of drivers as a leading cause of daily fatalities, noting that many are under the influence of drugs.

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“Their attitude and behaviors while using substances make them lose their common sense, particularly when they consume coffee Touba and energy drinks. These energy drinks appear to provide energy, but they contain alcohol. We need to change this attitude. Coffee Touba costs between D5 and D15, yet some people pay D100 and do not collect the change. We need to change our behavior,” Colley emphasized.

Omar Ceesay, the president of the Gambia Transport Union, called for collaborative action to mitigate the growing menace of road accidents. He blamed the police for issuing licenses to unqualified drivers but pledged his commitment to the campaign.

“I assure the MD of the National Road Authority that as the chairman of the transport union, I will be part of the team going garage by garage, community by community, and school by school. We call on all of you; this is not just an NRA or police initiative, but a Gambian initiative, so let’s all come together to make a change,” he pledged.

Other speakers included the Chair of the National Assembly Select Committee on Health, who pledged budgetary support for the new campaign, and Ousman Sanyang and WHO representative Momodou Gassama, who provided statistical data on road accidents.

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