jaywalking, a term used to describe someone who crosses the road in a careless manner, is something we have all been guilty of at one point or another.
For a lot of people, pedestrian traffic laws are one of the first few things they learnt in primary school. ‘Look left, look right and look left again before crossing the road,’ your teacher said. But with age and our busy lives, we often tend to think we are impervious to accidents, which is not the case.
Pedestrians are involved in car accidents on a daily basis in Namibia, whether they’re the causes or not. The law is clear on the responsibilities of the pedestrian with regards to road use and the penalties they carry for breaking them. Entering a pedestrian crossing contrary to indications of traffic signal, for example, carries a fine of N$200 while crossing a road without due care or lingering on the road when crossing carries a N$150 fine.
However, these laws can be difficult to regulate. Windhoek City Police deputy chief of the Traffic Management Unit, Adam Eiseb says; “It can be challenging because the level of responsibilities of pedestrians is not on the same level as that expected of motorists. Vehicle drivers are expected to carry a driver’s license on them at all times. And drivers who have committed an offense can eventually be tracked down with their registration plates.”
Aside from it being difficult to regulate for the police, the average Namibian does not know about this law. Says Martin Augustinus: “I don’t really know a lot about pedestrian traffic laws. When I cross the street, all I care about is my own safety. If I am standing at the traffic light and it shows red for the pedestrians but there are no cars coming, I will proceed onto the road.”
According to Eiseb, asking pedestrians to carry identification on them would infringe with the Constitution. Aside from actually finding the jaywalkers, another problem would be age group distinctions versus the law. Anyone below the age of 18 cannot be prosecuted for jaywalking.
The best way to find a solution is by educating the public. Warnings are issued through pamphlets and other disseminated sources but the best way would be to get it into the schools.
Although some learners have been exposed to traffic laws at a young age in Namibia, they are often learnt only during Life Skills classes and it depends on the preference of the teacher giving the lesson. “The law has not yet been formalised. There’s a pilot project currently being conducted to introduce a traffic law curriculum to the local educational system,” says Eiseb.
But it’s not always the fault of the jaywalker. Sometimes, the basic design of the street leaves them very litle room to maneuver, forcing them to walk on the road.
Eiseb explains, “Some streets do not even have sidewalks. The problem is, the engineers who designed Namibian roads and the streets were very vehicle-centered. They did not focus on the pedestrians.”
Currently, the Ministry of Works and Transport and the City of Windhoek are developing a master plan called the ‘Sustainable Urban Transport Master Plan’ that will enable authorities to develop an affordable, accessible, attractive and efficient public and non-motorised transport system in a 20-year horizon.