Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Drivers' E-Records: Insurers, Please Jump In
I have no statistics on how many lives have been lost in Tanzania due to motor vehicle accidents. Nevertheless, I know it is that bad. I can only come with four theories as to why there have been such road accident statistics: 1) unqualified drivers obtaining driving permits through corrupt means (we are talking about Bongoland here, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise) 2) corrupt traffic police who are not following the rules of their trade 3) bad roads 4) increased population of motor vehicles on the roads.
It is funny that way back in early 1990s, some government officials thought that road accidents increased because buses traveled at night. So they order daytime bus routes. They even introduced speed governors. Did that work? It didn’t, because the decision was more political than scientific. We continued to see road accidents.
It appears that the government has finally stopped hitting the snooze button, awakening from their slumber. According to IPP Media, the government is soon to introduce computerized driving licenses. I have no clue how such licenses would work, but I am assuming they will “machine readable”, that is, a driver’s information will be stored on a magnetic strip on the driver’s license card.
While this is a good move, fake licenses is just one factor. I don’t see a policy or strategic draft to tackle traffic policy corruption. But such is Bongoland.
I am in a light, good mood today. So I will provide a strategic advice to the Tanzanian government today. I hope that someone will listen.
According to research findings issued by T. Rwebangira (UDSM), T. Pearce and DAC Maunder (Transport Research Labaratory, UK), reckless driving was ranked highest among various causes of accidents in Tanzania between 1993 - 1997. According to the same research, private cars and dala-dala buses outdid buses in causing accidents. Read the report for yourself . It appears that one is likely to be involved in accident riding a dala-dala than taking a ride in Champion Bus. Not surprising.
Given that road accidents are caused mainly by reckless driving, we have to come up with a scientific way of dealing with the problem. My conviction is that road accidents can only be reduced when there are intrinsic reasons for the drivers to stop causing them. Drivers must have a reason to behave, not from cops, but from within. That is where the Tanzanian government must bring the insurance companies into the equation. In most cases, the government mandates motor vehicle insurance. Nonetheless, the premium rates charged by the insurance companies vary between drivers. Insurance companies weigh out the driving risk provided by each driver, based on age or the past driving records. Risky drivers, quite naturally, cost the insurance companies more in terms of insurance claims (Per the above cited report it costed NIC TShs 11 billion to settle claims in 1994 alone). So the insurance companies hit risky drivers the hardest.
As bad driving records will lead to higher insurance premiums, drivers will want to keep their records clean. This is will lead to a cheap self-regulation. No taxpayers’ money spent. That is the first whip for bad drivers.
Insurance companies can only push for the driver’s self-regulation through higher premiums if they have access to accurate records from the government. With the introduction of the computerized driving permits, I hope that the government will create a database for drivers’ records. Such a database should be used as a second whip for bad drivers. Drivers should be assigned points based on the nature and type of accidents caused. If a driver caused an accident for being drunk, for instance, higher points should be assigned. At a certain threshold, a driver will be stripped of his or her driving privileges, fined a huge amount of money, or sentenced to jail.
Given that bad driving records will lead to revocation of the driving privileges, hefty fines, and spending time in jail, drivers would not like to face such prospects in addition to paying higher insurance premiums. That will lead to a wonderful self-regulation by drivers.
This is something that we can implement. We don’t have to wait for some mzungu to tell us.
Obviously, I have assumed that the system will work. That is, violators will not walk free after bribing their way. That is something that the government is responsible to work on. I believe they hired Said Mwema for that.
This is my honest conviction: in order for Tanzanian improve in all crucial sectors of life, we need to move from making politically charged decisions and head towards a scientific approach. Most of the problems we face do not require complicated scientific abilities. They only require application of a little bit of common sense.
Photo: M. Michuzi