Recently in a conference, an old American surgeon told me a fact. “The biggest risk a young and healthy man can take in our beautiful city, Kigali, is to jump on a moto”. At first, I wanted to disagree with him. He only reminded me of the statistics.
On average two people die every day due to road traffic accident. Motos or taxi-moto are involved in 71% of all the accidents. Road traffic accidents remains the leading cause of death among young and otherwise healthy individuals. (EDITOR: The writer is addressing this issues to coincide with the road safety week starting today May 6 organized by Rwanda National Police)
As a victim of road-traffic accidents and a public health advocate, I have used the interest I have for this important matter and did a research to determine some of the “best practices” which can help the population to move safely on motos.
Although, I consider myself inexperienced to draft the following “ten golden rules”, the research I did and my commitment to solving this issue, can guarantee you the correctness of the advice that I am proposing. Follow them for your benefit, and ignore them at your own risk.
Rule 1: Never be afraid to tell the motorcyclists to ride safely
It is indeed in the culture of Rwandans to not talk a lot. We talk and openly criticize when things have gone far. While sitting on moto, we often see motorcyclists put our lives in danger by violating road safety rules and we adopt to keep silence.
Never keep silence when your life is in danger. Let us develop the habit of openly talking to the motorcyclists about their wrongdoing and in extreme cases stop and report them. By doing this, we will not only be saving our lives, but also the motorcyclists will be careful in the future therefore saving lives of others.
Rule 2: Never use your phone while sitting on moto
It is very dangerous to use your phone while sitting on moto. Not only does it distract you – preventing you from seeing what is happening, but also it puts you in an unstable sitting position on moto which can aggravate the situation in case of an accident.
Most of the time, people take moto for short distances to travel around within the city. Most of rides do not last more than 30 minutes. It is highly recommended to put your phone in the pocket and use it after. Is only thirty minutes off of your phone such a serious issue?
Rule 3: Choose a new moto
Every day I see very old motos circulating in Kigali struggling even to climb on a speed bump. Unlike for cars, Police has yet to even establish technical check-up for moto. Although there is no official research comparing new and old moto involved in road traffic accident, one can certainly assume that riding with a new one is safer than an old one. Therefore, in case you are going to use a moto as a mean of transport, choose a new one.
Rule 4: If you are drunk, don’t use moto
One of the reasons to use a moto is going home very late in the nights mostly in the weekends from a nightclub or a party. However, whatever the circumstances, don’t use a moto when you are drunk. To jump on a moto with a reduced level of consciousness is very dangerous and should be avoided.
First and foremost, some motorcyclists are not decent people and can take advantage of your vulnerability to harm you. Secondly, sitting on moto with reduced level of consciousness is a major risk which can cause an accident such as falling or jumping out of the vehicle when it brakes.
Rule 5: Use the helmet properly
Although helmets are effective in preventing head and brain injury following road traffic accidents, some helmeted individuals usually sustain head injury. One of the reason for this is improper use of helmets.
Several research shows that poorly fitting helmets may be associated with an increased risk of head injury. Wearing a helmet is not enough, you should wear it properly, check that it can fit and lock it. In case of an accident, incorrectly used helmet do more harm than good.
Rule 6: Stop and report to police the motorcyclists violating laws
Compared to using bus, moving around on moto is moderately expensive. As a commuter who had paid the motorcyclist, you deserve the best of care. The most one is safety. If the motorcyclist is violating road safety recommendations, there is high risks to be involved in accident.
When it comes to bargaining prices, we become sharp and bargain. But when the motorcyclist violates laws we are often soft. Most of the time, we are not brave enough to ask them for explanation. We should be stopping them and in extreme cases reporting them.
Rule 7: Talk first with the motorcyclist and go with a cool one
You will be surprised by the amount of information you can get by only having a small deep conversation with an inconnu. First you will find out if the guy is sober because many motorcyclists are often drunk especially during the nights.
In addition to finding important information about the guy, talking to the motorcyclists will often bring that bond between you and him. Nothing is more satisfying than that.
Rule 8: Ride with authorized motorcyclists
Always choose law abiding and registered motorcyclists. The easy way to know them, is that they wear common gilet. Motorcyclists in that gilet are registered in cooperatives and most of them and their motos have proper authorization to operate.
Riding with an unauthorized moto, not wearing a gilet or a badge, is dangerous and should be avoided. In an unofficial language they are called “Inyeshyamba”. Some of them and their motos don’t have proper authorization to operate due to various reasons. They ride while hiding from Police and this can expose you to a dangerous accident.
Rule 9: Choose a mature motorcyclist
As we grow, we fear risks. The same also applies for old and mature motorcyclists. Mature motorcyclists are law abiding than young ones and they don’t take unnecessary risks. In addition to this, they are experienced and most of them have families which rely on their work. If you have the choice, I recommend you to choose an old and mature one.
Rule 10: Avoid moto at all cost
The only efficient way to prevent moto-related road traffic accident is definitely to avoid moto. Moto is Plan B. Just like a morning pill for women. Morning pill is not a contraceptive method by itself but it is used to prevent pregnancy in cases of emergencies.
That’s the same for moto. Considering the rate of accidents for moto, no one should make it his/her usual transport means. We should reserve them in case of emergencies.