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May 1, 2023

Advocates in Uganda Mobilize to Save Lives and Prevent Road Crashes

by Jackie Okao and Roxanne Paisible

Road crashes are increasing at an alarming rate in Uganda. Crashes have gone up by about 17% from 17,443 in 2021 to 20,394 in 2022. In 2022, 4,534 women, children, and men lost their lives on the roads and there were 15,277 Ugandans who sustained serious injuries. As a result of these crashes, people have lost family members, friends, colleagues, future community leaders and survivors of these crashes must cope with lifelong chronic injuries and disabilities. The Road Safety Advocacy Coalition in Uganda (ROSACU) has embarked on an important advocacy journey to ensure that there are policies in place to prevent these crashes from occurring in the first place.

In 2020, the coalition launched an advocacy campaign to urge the government to review and update the country’s road safety regulations. The Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), in collaboration with the Global Road Safety Partnership, works alongside our partners in Uganda to support policy change campaigns on road safety. GHAI serves as a strategic advocacy advisor to the coalition and supports campaign planning efforts. Through this campaign, ROSACU members advocated for the regulations to align with global best practices and standards. Recently, the coalition celebrated an important policy victory when the Ministry of Works and Transport adopted a series of lifesaving road safety legislations to keep Ugandans safe on the country’s roads. The passage of these regulations marked an important policy win for the ROSACU and was a result of unrelenting pressure from advocates. These revised regulations will save countless lives and road safety provides access to work, school, markets, and all of the activities that Ugandans carry out to be productive and contributing members of their communities.

The updated regulations include among others, four main behavioral risk factors: child restraints, drink driving, helmets use, and seatbelts use. Child restraint systems or child car seats are now mandatory for private cars. In addition, the drink driving regulation lowers the blood alcohol content limit from 0.08 to 0.05, which is consistent with the World Health Organization standard. Boda bodas or motorcycle taxis are one of the main forms of transportation for most people in Uganda and most drivers do not wear their helmets properly while most passengers may not even wear a helmet at all. According to the Ugandan National Police’s most recent crime report, in 2022, boda boda drivers and passengers account for 43% of all road crashes in the country. Now, with the revised regulations, children must be accompanied by an adult while riding on a motorcycle and they must be wearing a helmet. As for seatbelts, in the past it was only required for the driver and front seat passengers to wear their seatbelts, but now all passengers must wear their seatbelts. Lastly, motorcycle helmets are now required for both the driver and passenger. The campaign is far from over, even with the coalition’s most recent victory.

Although the regulations are finalized and published in the government’s official bulletin, ROSACU will not let up on the pressure. The coalition will continue to sustain the momentum on road safety and will now focus their efforts on implementation and enforcement of the updated regulations. The Ministry of Works and Transport will launch a public awareness campaign to build public support for these lifesaving measures. Advocates will continue to build public demand and support for these regulations as well as push for effective standards so that safe, affordable and quality helmets and child car seats are readily accessible to all living in Uganda.