Mark Kunda

YES, road markings cannot be marked on gravel roads. But I often wonder why road signs are not erected on gravel roads. When I saw a road sign improvised by villagers, I concluded that road engineers and contractors should consider putting road signs on gravel roads both in towns and villages. All roads need road safety features like road signs.

Most drivers do not know the meaning of various road signs found on our roads. When I ask drivers to identify and explain the meaning of various road signs, I often get wrong answers. The level of ignorance exhibited by some drivers always breaks my heart. So I decided to do something about it rather than just complaining and blaming Road Safety and Transport Agency (RTSA) for not adequately educating drivers on the meaning of road signs.

I decided to make a Road Safety Video explaining the common road markings and traffic signs. During my Road Safety Video project, I discovered that even my video producer was ignorant about road signs. I knew if I allowed the project to proceed with the producer who did not know road safety in general and road signs in particular, the project would not achieve its intended purpose.

So I resolved to teach the producer first. He became my first project. I took time to patiently explain the meaning of each road sign, where they are found and what every driver ought to do upon seeing such road signs. I even drove with him around Lusaka to physically show him the road markings and traffic signs on the roads. I explained to him the benefits of obeying road markings and traffic signs.

My strategy paid off. Initially the video producer was a dangerous driver – a driver who behaved in unsafe manner on the road. Like most drivers, he was more afraid of Traffic Police and RTSA than the safety hazards found on the road. He was more conscious of the law enforcers than road signs. But after providing free road safety training to him, his road behaviour changed automatically.

“Thank you Mr Mark for changing my life,” he confessed to me one day during the project, “I have become more careful when driving. I never used to pay attention to these road signs because I didn’t know their meaning.” The video producer became a safe driver.  His confidence on the road improved.

He began practicing safety on the road. He even began wearing the seatbelt as soon as he got into his car instead of waiting to see law enforcers before wearing it as his earlier practice used to be. The change I saw in the gentleman made me so excited that I felt like cancelling the project.

I felt like my project had achieved its objective. I felt like God gave me the burden to produce the video to simply change the life of the video producer. Instead, I proceeded to finish the project knowing that the Road Safety Video would change lives of others as well. If you need a copy of the Road Safety Video, contact me using details provided at the end of the article.

A driver who obeys road signs is a safe driver. A road with road signs a safe road. I know we have a lot of challenges with regard to road signs on our roads.  Firstly road signs are not adequate on our roads. Most roads do not have road signs. Sometimes you only find road signs in towns or areas where people live or trade along the highway.  Once you pass such places, you will rarely find road signs especially on sections of the road that are far from towns or villages. This inconsistency of road signs make drivers fail to pay attention to them even in areas where they are present.

When a driver embarks on a journey, he or she is eager to see and obey the road signs. But if the driver keeps on driving without seeing any road sign even in areas where signs are expected, he or she will stop anticipating to see signs. Before long, not finding road signs becomes normal such that even after finding signs, the driver will behave as though they are not present.

After all that is the way he or she has been driving in most sections of the road. To improve compliance, relevant authorities must ensure that road signs are consistently erected along the entire stretch of the road. The second challenge is that even the few road signs that are erected on our roads are either damaged or stolen by people.

The majority of the people have never been drivers before. So they do not truly understand how important road signs are to drivers. In fact they do not see any difference between the road sign or the billboard. To them, road signs become sources of raw materials for making braziers. Sometimes they would scratch, paint or stick anything on the road sign making the sign unclear to the driver.

What is even more surprising is that sometimes people simply damage the road signs for no reason at all and leave them bent or twisted. To overcome these unsafe practices, relevant authorities should sensitize the public on the importance of road signs during road construction and maintenance.

They should also carry out regular audits of road signs and repair and replace those that are damaged or stolen. The fact that road signs are damaged or stolen should be used as an excuse for the relevant authorities not to install, maintain and fix road signs.

The third challenge is that most road signs are blocked by billboards or by vegetation. Drivers find it difficult to see road signs if they are covered with vegetation such as shrubs or tall grass. This can be overcome by ensuring regular road clearance of vegetation. When the vegetation is kept short, it improves the view for the drivers as well thereby preventing road accidents. Having too many billboards make it difficult for drivers to see road signs.

The driver has to struggle to see the road sign to know if there is a road branching off the main road. In most cases the billboards are bigger than road signs making it easier to see the billboard than the road sign. This problem can be resolved by regulating the height, size and number of billboards at a given location of the road.

Obeying the road signs is for your own benefit. Despite all the challenges above, you still have a personal responsibility to obey road signs found on the road. Law enforcers won’t kill you if you do not obey them but failing to obey road signs may result in an accident which can kill you.

I know violating of road markings and traffic signs is not strongly enforced. The law enforcers mostly focus on over-speeding, vehicle fitness and driver’s licence.  As a result most motorists do not treat failure to obey road markings as a serious offense.

Your motivation to obey the road signs should not be based on whether it is an offense or not. Your motivation should be based on whether it is safe or unsafe. Anything that puts you in danger of causing an accident must be taken seriously whether traffic police or RTSA takes it seriously or not. Safety hazards highlighted by the road signs put your life at risk, not the life of police or RTSA.

It is practically impossible to station traffic police officers at every T-Junction of every road to remind you that you are approaching a hazardous place where collisions are common. But it is possible to simply put T-Junctions signs to give warning to you.  Just because police or RTSA do not arrest you for violating road signs does not mean they are not important. So if you choose to ignore the T-Junction sign and cause an accident, you will not blame anyone because the warning was given to you.

Although road signs appear to be many, they fall in just three categories according to their function. The first category is of warning signs. Warning signs are road signs that give caution to you so that you are aware of the danger on that particular section of the road. They highlight the safety hazard ahead. Hazards on the road may arise from many situations including the road layout itself – which is basically the way the road is designed.

Examples of warning signs include T-Junction, crossroad, curve, roundabout, rail crossing, narrow road ahead, bridge, slippery road or hump ahead signs. Warning signs tell you to slow down or to drive with extra care. The second category is of regulatory signs.

Regulatory signs are also called prohibition or control signs. These signs prohibit or restrict what you can or cannot do at that particular section of the road. Examples of regulatory signs are stop, no overtaking, no parking, no stopping, no right or left turn, no U-Turn, no entry, speed limit, mass limit, give way or yield signs.

Regulatory signs give commands which you must obey. The last category is of information signs. Information signs are signs that give important information which you may need to make certain decisions as you drive. Examples of information signs include lay-by, distance and destination signs. Information signs give you information to help you manage your journey properly and safely. For instance a lay-by sign will help you to decide to rest or not, a distance sign will help you to know where you will find the next filling station and a direction sign will help you to decide which turn to follow.

Road signs are important. Take time to study the Zambian Highway Code. The Highway Code is given free of charge by RTSA. If you need a free soft copy, let me know. I can send it to you. Pay attention to all the road signs and obey them. Road signs are there to warn, prohibit and inform you to regulate road behaviour. Obeying road signs will promote road safety.  Be a safe driver. Drive safely. Obey road signs always. Until next week, stay safe. Zambia needs you.

The author is the CEO of SafetyFocus, a safety company committed to providing safety training, consultancy and supplying of safety products.

 

For your comments, contact the author on cell +260 975 255770 or email: marksucceed@gmail.com

Mark Kunda—Safety Consultant

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