Transporting yourself around parts of Africa is not always a straight forward process. Whether a short trip to work in the morning on a private minibus, a trip to the market on the back of an Okada, or a long journey by car, or on a bus, it can be a tiring and potentially risky journey. If you have lived in Africa for any length of time, it is likely you have seen a car accident, or heard of someone that has been injured (or worse) in an accident.
During my time in Ghana, I was involved in two accidents, (fortunately with no incident) and was often presented with horrific images of crashes in the newspaper, news or on social media. Whether it is the state of maintenance of vehicles or reckless driving, I can not be sure, but it is certainly a problem that needs to be resolved.
I often write that the challengers Africa faces drives innovation in a different way from in Europe, America and the rest of the world. This different set of challenges lead to solutions that can be used all over the world. So when I did some research into what technology is working to save lives and prevent road traffic accidents in Africa, I was surprised that I could not find anything worth writing about. (If you have heard of a solution please let me know!)
I expected to see speed sensors and limiters, new methods of identifying drivers that were breaking the speed limit or driving dangerously (eg digital registration), self driving vehicles or alcohol consumption apps that stop people from driving when over the limit. (In Kenya they have actually started alcohol testing drivers of commercial vehicles at bus stations).
I may not have found anything to prevent crashes, but there is a new app in South Africa which helps people after the crash. It is very important to get an accurate record of the aftermath of an accident. The location, time, vehicle make and registration, witness statements are all very important when distinguishing who was at fault during an insurance or police investigation.
FICS, a South African private investigation service, have launched the app which will help those involved and by standers document a crash. All the information will be stored centrally and owned by FICS. Interested parties will have to pay to have access to the information. This is where the app adds motivation for people to document accidents. For every time a report is downloaded, the person who has submitted it receives R500. Monetising this service for those that make the reports ensures that their will be data out there on many road traffic accidents and that can also assist on preventing them in the future.
Having access to these reports will substantially cut down the time taken to resolve claims. It cuts out a lot of the uncertainty, and makes sure that insurance companies, police and lawyers have all the relevant information at their fingertips. The app may not prevent accidents, but it certainly gives those involved piece of mind after the unfortunate event.
If you would like to download the mobile app here are the links:
Apple App Store: http://bit.ly/FICSAppApple
Google Play Store: http://bit.ly/FICSAppGoogle
What is most important though, is not technological change, it is a change in mindset. We need to be more careful on our streets and take better care of our lives others. Bus drivers may be interested in getting to their destinations quickly, but risky overtaking manoeuvres around bends, or other dangerous tactics are not necessary. There also needs to be greater enforcement with regard to the maintenance of vehicles (I once had a door fall off a private bus I was in!), alcohol levels and passing of driving tests. It is also not only about the drivers. Pedestrians also need to be more careful and vigilant when walking on or near streets.
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