Uganda predominantly relies on the road to move goods and people. However, this dominant mode of transport is unsafe. According to the 2018 Road Safety Performance Review, the country loses about 10 people daily in road traffic crashes, the highest level in East Africa. The causes range from poor condition of vehicles to poor road use.
The 2018 Road Safety Performance Review notes: “At present, Uganda seems highly unlikely to achieve the goals of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety, of stabilizing and reducing the forecast level of road fatalities by 2020.” Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.6 requires halving the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2030. Uganda is falling behind this target. The report says that “unless effective interventions are implemented, road crashes [in Uganda] are likely to increase and even double within the next ten years.” According to the 2020 police report, the accident severity index stood at 30 people killed per 100 crashes, up from 24 in 2016. The same report noted that ten people die every day in Uganda due to road crashes. The situation may be worse. Preliminary research findings released in 2019 by Makerere University School of Public Health suggest that about 9,000 people die in road traffic accidents annually, a number three times higher than the police reports.
The media plays a pivotal role in increasing awareness and changing behaviour around public health issues. According to the University of California, Berkeley, effective communications about road safety, whether in the media, in safety campaign materials, or in community outreach efforts, play an important role in ensuring safe mobility for all road users. How the public thinks about the problem of traffic injury and fatalities and what can be done about it is significantly influenced by how the media reports on it.
This study looked at Ugandan news media coverage of road safety, focusing on the country’s three main daily newspapers, three television stations, and two online platforms. The study explores the attention and the nature of coverage these newspapers, television stations, and online platforms paid to road safety (including road traffic crashes and measures to mitigate them) from 1 August 2021 to 31 July 2022. The publications studied were Bukedde (a Luganda-language daily), Daily Monitor, and New Vision (the only two English-language dailies). The television stations were NBS, NTV, and UBC, while the online platforms were ChimpReports and TND News.
Relying mainly on quantitative content analysis, the study explores the quantity of stories on road safety, the types of articles published (news, analysis, opinion, features, etc.), the reporting formats employed, the topics covered, and the sourcing. The analysis also covers the use of background and context in the coverage and the attention paid to the key road safety risk factors, including drink-driving, speeding, seat-belts, helmets, and operation of vehicles in “dangerous mechanical condition.”
The study also relies on responses from key informant interviews with journalists and civil society actors to provide context and insights into the quantitative findings.