WHO report highlights Tanzania`s `deadly` roads Tanzania Police Force Traffic Commander, SACP James Kombe THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam TANZANIA is now officially ranked among countries with the world's deadliest roads, prompting United Nations health chiefs to urge the government to tighten road safety laws. The Global Status Report on Road Safety, released on Monday by the World Health Organisation (WHO), shows that road users in Tanzania are more likely to be killed than in many other countries. According to the new report, the number of vulnerable road users being killed in the country is worryingly high, with pedestrians constituting 37 per cent of casualties. Deaths by road user category in the country include motor vehicle passengers (33 per cent), cyclists (17 per cent), motorbike/bajaj riders (7 per cent) and motor vehicle drivers (6 per cent). The report reveals that 34.3 for every 100,000 people were killed on roads in Tanzania during 2007, a dismal record compared to neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Burundi, Malawi, Zambia, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Kenya has a slightly higher death toll from road accidents compared to Tanzania, at 34.4 people killed per 100,000. According to the report, a staggering 2,595 deaths were reported on roads in Tanzania in 2007 alone, with men making up 78 per cent of the casualties and women, 22 per cent. Compared with the United Kingdom which has a 5.4 per 100,000 population road death rate, this means that people are over six times more likely to die on Tanzanian roads than in the UK. With the global average of 18.8 road deaths per 100,000 people, Tanzania has one of the highest death tolls in the world. ''It is a dangerous place to be on the roads, either as a pedestrian or a driver, and there needs to be more focus on vulnerable road users,'' says the WHO report. WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan said the poor road safety record of Tanzania and many of its neighbours ''deserves our highest attention'', and called on officials to take action. The report notes that laws on seat belts, drink driving, speed limits, and mandatory motorcycle helmets are not stringent enough in the country, and enforcement is lax. It reveals for instance that the seat-belt law in Tanzania does not uniformly apply to all motor vehicle occupants. According to available data cleared by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare for the purposes of the WHO research, hardly 30 per cent of drivers and front-seat passengers obey the seat-belt law and wear the devices - while just 5 per cent of rear-seat passengers do the same. The 287-page global report notes with concern that Tanzania lacks a child restraint law, which effectively renders its enforcement of road safety regulations for children virtually non-applicable. Some 57 per cent of the 577,949 vehicles registered in the country by 2007 were mini-buses, vans and other motor vehicles with seating capacities in the 20-passengers range. Other vehicle categories registered in Tanzania are motor cars (14 per cent), motorbikes/bajaj scooters (9 per cent), trucks (7 per cent), buses (4 per cent) and others of the like (9 per cent). Police recorded 16,308 non-fatal accidents in 2007, with the trend in road deaths showing a steady increase since 2000. Only a small number of African countries studied in the report, which covers a total of 178 nations and more than 98 per cent of the world population, have a worse road deaths record than Tanzania, according to the WHO report. These include Angola (37.7 deaths per 100,000 people), Libya (40.5), Egypt (47.5), and Eritrea (48.4). Botswana has one of Africa's better road safety records in a relative sense, with 18.3 deaths from road accidents for every 100,000 people. This first global assessment of road safety found that pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists make up almost half of the estimated 1.27 million people killed each year on roads around the world. Said Dr Chan: ''We found that in many countries, the laws necessary to protect people are either not in place, or are not comprehensive. And even when there is adequate legislation, most countries report that enforcement is low.'' ''We are not giving sufficient attention to the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, many of whom end up in clinics and hospitals. We must do better if we are to halt or reverse the rise in road traffic injuries, disability and deaths,'' she added. Contacted in Dar es Salaam, the national traffic police commander, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (SACP) James Kombe, told THISDAY he was not in a position to immediately comment on the UN report. He said he had already recently issued a statement on what the police is doing to tackle road carnage in the country.