FACTSHEET: Almost 1, 000 People in Gambia Killed in Road Accidents in 6 Years

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A February 2023 screenshot of photo collages of a road accident in Kiang Bamako, Gambia's Lower River Region in which 5 people died (Photo taken from Kerr Fatou)

By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT

Road traffic accidents in The Gambia have been a cause for concern with the new six lane Bertil Harding Highway identified as one of the most dangerous routes, with 102 accidents reported as of January 2024.

As President Adama Barrow’s government ramps up its infrastructural development agenda by constructing new roads, the statistics of road traffic accidents has forced Parliament into action to tackle this perennial problem.

This Factsheet provides data on road traffic accidents and fatalities in the West Africa nation, some of the underlying causes, and what authorities are doing to curb the menace – seen by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to become seventh highest cause of death by 2030.

Road Traffic Accidents and Deaths in The Gambia

During the research, a proliferation of data on road traffic accidents in The Gambia were accessed online. However, some of them appear inconsistent with the most comprehensive datasetTransport Statistics published by the Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBOS) in December, 2023. The most recent data highlights that last year, 1, 210 accidents occurred, claiming 148 lives.

The situation is so serious that two National Assembly Members (NAMs) raised separate Matters of the Day on road traffic accidents, one of which was on 14th March, 2024 after Hon. Sulayman Saho demanded that “the Inspector General of Police, Ministry of Health, and National Road Authority [should] convene an emergency meeting to address this ‘national crisis’ which is consuming our lives”.

The statistics below shows that from 2018 to 2023 a total of 6, 630 accidents have occurred, claiming a total of 969 lives. This translates to an average of 1, 105 accidents and 161 deaths every year for the past six years.

The year 2021 was certainly the worst with 1, 218 road traffic accidents recorded and 200 deaths. For this, The Gambia was ranked 4th country with the highest road traffic accidents in the world by the World Life Expectancy’s World Health Rankings.

The Gambia’s Ranking on Road Traffic Accidents and Deaths

Since the record highest spike in road traffic accidents in 2021, The Gambia’s top 4 ranking has since improved to the 8th country with the highest road traffic accidents in the world. The ranking, which is published yearly, shows that The Gambia is only better than Burundi, Uganda, Eritrea, Liberia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and the Dominican Republic.

The ranking places the West African nation amongst 43 countries rated as having high road traffic accidents. On the other end of the scale, the best three countries ranked with the lowest road traffic accidents are Antigua and Barbuda, Micronesia, and Singapore.

Highest-and-Lowest Ranked-Countries-on-Road-Accidents-2023

Parliamentary Inquiry into Road Traffic Accidents and Solutions

Evidently, one of the main discussion points revolves around the leading cause of road traffic accidents. During the two separate Matter of the Day speeches read out by Hon. Amadou Camara and Hon Sulayman Saho, they cited a number of reasons for road traffic accidents in the country. The main difference between the two is that Hon Saho’s speech resulted in the Plenary passing a resolution for further action.

This culminated in Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence and Security holding a meeting with a number of stakeholders on the topic “Road Accidents and Solutions” on 17th April, 2024. The meeting saw stakeholders from the Ministries of Defence, Interior and Works, the Inspector General of Police, the National Road Authority, and the Mobile Traffic Police Officials” converge to address this problem.

Unfortunately, only the opening session was open to the media with more substantial discussions taking place behind closed doors. Parliament subsequently published a video summary of the introductory session of the meeting. Some of the reasons noted in the Matter of the Day Speeches and the Committee’s meeting are summarised as follows: poor condition of vehicles, worn out tires, lack of effective driving testing prior to issuance of driving licenses, bad driving behaviour, and poor road designs.

Leading Causes of Road Traffic Accidents

More reasons for road traffic accidents are included in the Government’s Road Safety Strategy 2030 which aims to cut down fatal accidents and serious injuries to half by the year 2030. The WHO has predicted that road traffic accidents will be the seventh leading cause of death in the world by 2030. One of the targets set by the Gambia’s Strategy is to bring the number of fatalities down to less than 100 deaths per year. To do this, a number of “critical management issues need to be addressed”.

Gambia-Road-Traffic-Accidents-2018-2023-designed-by-Yusef-TaylorThe Strategy developed by the Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure (MoTWI) cautions that The Gambia;

  • “has a weak road safety management system, with inadequate leadership and coordination on the problem, either within Government or wider society.
  • “has not been investing enough into road safety either from the national budget, the Road Fund, insurance premiums or through prioritizing external donor or international support.
  • “does not have an electronic database, or the necessary reporting systems (data collection, collation, analysis, surveillance) which would allow us to monitor fatalities and serious injuries, or target our future injury prevention efforts.
  • “is caught in a cycle of weak legislation and low levels of enforcement, which is illustrated by a poor driver licensing system, and poor user behaviours such as speeding, drink driving, [non-use of] seatbelts and helmets, and [use of] mobile phones.
  • has “a basic lack of road safety knowledge amongst users (with inadequate early curriculum at schools), but also amongst professional bodies which are in a position to improve the safety of all users.

 So, what are the Authorities Doing About it?

At the moment Parliament, appears to be in the driving seat to hold the responsible authorities accountable for not instilling the necessary precautions to bring road accidents and deaths within reasonable levels. Parliamentary procedures dictate that the Standing Committee on Defence and Security will eventually submit a report to the Plenary (a full house of parliament) which will debate and recommend resolutions to address this perennial problem.

During World Remembrance Day for Road Traffic Accidents Victims in November 2022, the Minister of Transport Works and Infrastructure, Ebrima Sillah, said that his institution “will be working with the Gambia Police Force through the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Justice, to ensure that we put in place strong legislative frameworks to deal with reckless road accidents…”.  The MoTWI National Road Safety Strategy 2030 envisages “zero road fatalities or serious injuries in The Gambia by 2030”.

Gambia Government’s Road Safety Governance Structure:

 

 

 

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