By John Baptist Wasswa
- Let us start simple. Consider some news stories. Go to the Central Police Station in your city or municipality and check out the traffic office and the crime report, focusing on traffic offences. Examine the traffic incident statistics and note down the following:-
- Road crashes since January 2021; deaths and injuries; causes of the crashes.
- Identify the motor vehicles involved. Light cars; motorcycles; bicycles; heavy vehicles.
- Pedestrians (average ages, gender of dead and injured.
- Milk your investigation with several focused news stories. Your story should have comments, explanations from Police, local transport experts or at the Ministry of Transport; comments also from CSOs involved in road safety.
- Make a follow up e.g with a talk show with key stakeholders as guests to discuss the traffic crime report findings.
- Or follow up with a Q&A with a very relevant and expert source.
Part B: Other story ideas
Check out negative trends and write a story to address them before they lead to road crashes.
- Road indiscipline (speeding; unnecessary hooting… and guidelines on where not to hoot; not respecting lanes, even if not marked; impunity; if in Kampala use hidden cameras to capture VIPs abusing roads with impunity
- Indiscipline by people driving government cars especially: security, defence, Ministers. Follow up with senior traffic officer to comment. How can this be stopped? You may also crowdsource possible solutions.
Hospital visits to check the situation and statistics of crash victims. Be humble; explain your assignment, ask for access to records and to the patients.
- Do crash patient stories… they are very touching. Give them a voice and pick sound bites. They have a lot to tell.
- Talk to doctors/ nurses on the crash wards. They too have stories to tell. Do stories that bring out the emotions in people.
Traffic regulations and enforcement.
- What is the focus on traffic management? Is Police too focused on driving permits and neglecting other aspects?
- You can do explanatory stories on common things Police looks at e.g Third Party Insurance… what it is and how does it work?; or tyre examination. When is a tyre considered worn out? What marks on the tyre show you that it should be replaced? Or the management of minors in a car. Where should they sit? How to secure them? Acceptable loading and unacceptable types of loading, e.t.c.
If in Kampala, ask KCCA and Traffic Police why officers override traffic signals yet they do have censors? What formula do they use to control traffic, sometimes holding cars for close to 20 minutes?
If you are based in the regional cities and municipalities, consider doing a story on the buses. Do they have a timetable? Is it followed? Do bus companies have inspectors? How do they work? What is the role of the Police? On-board safety measures? Quality of safety belts etc. What are the safety records of the buses?
Post-crash care: Look at the post-crash preparedness in your area. How many ambulances are there (private, police, hospital ambulance)? What is the cost, if any? What is the type of ambulance?
- What other emergency services are available?
- Do concerned units and institutions do periodic rehearsals and drills?
Personality stories. Check out personalities involved in the road safety business. They always have stories to share. Long-serving traffic officer; an experienced driver with companies that have big fleets e.g Umeme; Police, UPDF, Prisons, Ambulance drivers, truck drivers. How do they keep safe on the road? How are they trained? Their habits, dos and don’ts.
Children and Persons with disabilities. How do we keep them safe on the roads?
As you think of story ideas, also think about the possible formats to use. What type of story do you want to do? Or think in reverse—how best can this story be told? Interview? Q&A? Radio Magazine? News story? Feature ? etc.
NB For every story idea, write down at least five questions that you will ask in order to produce a strong story. Secondly, for every story idea, list the source you will use both human and documentary. Keep that discipline.