A new basket of story ideas on road safety

This guide is produced as part of the ‘Strengthening the capacity of the media in Uganda to report on road safety policy’ project, implemented by the African Centre for Media Excellence with support from the Global Road Safety Partnership.

With increased travel during the holidays, concerns about road safety naturally come to the forefront. For journalists, navigating this topic requires careful attention to accuracy and sensitivity while highlighting important issues. This resource provides a series of story ideas that you can use to reporting on holiday travel and other road safety matters in a clear, creative and objective manner.

Holiday hustle on wheels

As families pack onto buses for festive reunions, can bus companies maintain their safety standards? Investigate the hidden risks of increased passenger loads, long journeys, and potentially fatigued drivers, examining how companies are navigating the increased demand without compromising safety.

Sources:

  • Passengers: Interview families and individuals using buses for holiday travel to gauge their concerns about safety, experiences with driver behaviour, and any observed safety measures in place.
  • Bus company representatives: Interview CEOs, safety officers, and fleet managers about their festive season preparations, including vehicle inspections, maintenance schedules, driver training programs, and fatigue management protocols.
  • Bus drivers: Talk to drivers on popular routes to understand their experiences with increased passenger volumes, managing long journeys, and dealing with potentially challenging passengers under festive pressure.
  • Traffic Police Officers: Seek their insights into holiday bus traffic patterns, potential safety concerns related to increased travel, and their collaboration with bus companies on safety initiatives.
  • Safety Experts: Consult transportation safety researchers and analysts to analyse data on past holiday bus accidents, identify trends and patterns, and offer evidence-based solutions for safer travel.

Additional Ideas:

  • Ride along with a bus driver on a long holiday route to experience the challenges first-hand.
  • Visit bus depots and maintenance facilities to observe pre-departure safety checks and driver training sessions.
  • Compare safety practices and regulations among different bus companies to identify best practices and potential areas for improvement.

 

The hidden costs of festive DUI

Investigate safe roads beyond the festive façade, exposing the human cost of driving under the influence, examining root causes, and explore innovative solutions to prevent tragedies before they turn the season to grief.

Sources:

  • DUI victims and families: Share the stories of individuals impacted by DUI accidents, giving voice to the hidden human cost beyond statistics. Explore the emotional, financial, and social repercussions families face long after the initial impact.
  • Law enforcement officers: Interview traffic police officers on the frontlines of combating DUI, gaining insights into festive trends, enforcement challenges, and the emotional toll of witnessing the consequences.
  • Road safety experts: Analyse data on festive DUI rates, identify patterns and high-risk locations, and explore factors like fatigue, holiday stress, and social pressure contributing to impaired driving.
  • Addiction specialists and psychologists: Explore the psychology of risky driving choices, analysing the influence of cultural norms, peer pressure, and the potential role of underlying mental health issues.

Additional ideas:

  • Accompany police officers on DUI patrols during peak festive periods to offer a first-hand glimpse into the challenges and realities of enforcement.
  • Report on safe alternatives for celebrating that don’t involve alcohol, showcasing festive events, activities, and social gatherings built around responsible enjoyment.
  • Shadow a designated driver for a night, capturing their interactions with friends, navigating festive hotspots, and the overall experience of being the responsible one.

 

The perils of ‘stolen’ pavements

Explain safety issues created by pavement encroachment, where vendors, parked cars, bodabodas and even encroaching buildings obstruct designated pedestrian paths and turn them into obstacle courses. Through the voices of frustrated walkers and compelling visuals, shed light on the dangers, inconveniences, and indignities faced by those on foot, challenging the notion that these public spaces are truly public.

Sources:

  • Talk to walkers of all ages and backgrounds, capturing their personal experiences navigating obstructed sidewalks. Highlight stories of near misses, accessibility challenges, and the overall frustration with this daily obstacle.
  • Interview shop owners whose customers struggle with the obstructed pavements, delivery drivers who face parking difficulties, and residents with disabilities whose mobility is compromised.
  • Seek the perspective of urban planners on the root causes of pavement obstruction, existing regulations and enforcement measures, and potential solutions for reclaiming pedestrian space.
  • Include voices from pedestrian advocacy groups and NGOs highlighting the health, safety, and equity concerns associated with obstructed sidewalks.

Additional ideas:

  • Capture vivid images and videos showcasing the extent of pavement obstruction in different areas. Use wide shots to paint a broad picture and close-ups to highlight specific dangers, like precarious manoeuvring around parked cars or tripping hazards caused by overflowing vendor stalls.
  • If possible, find locations where sidewalks have been cleared or reclaimed, and showcase the positive impact on pedestrian flow and accessibility through contrasting photos or videos.

 

Crossing the chasm

Examine the complex reality of pedestrian crosswalks , where inadequate design, inconsistent infrastructure, and insufficient enforcement create serious road safety problems. Expose the challenges faced by pedestrians, explores potential solutions, and ignites a conversation about reimagining crosswalks as true havens for those on foot.

Sources:

  • Interview officials responsible for crosswalk design and implementation to understand priorities, budgetary constraints, and potential for improvement. Explore international best practices and their applicability within Uganda’s context.
  • Talk to individuals who regularly use crosswalks to understand their experiences, anxieties, and near misses. Interview drivers to gauge their awareness of crosswalk regulations and compliance challenges. Include voices from businesses that operate in the vicinity of dangerous crosswalks, residents living nearby, and representatives of NGOs promoting pedestrian safety. Explore grassroots initiatives aimed at raising awareness and advocating for improved infrastructure.
  • Interview architects and urban planners to envision innovative crosswalk designs that prioritise pedestrian safety and integrate seamlessly with the urban landscape.

Additional ideas:

  • Conduct on-site assessments of crosswalks in different regions, evaluating factors like visibility, signage, accessibility for people with disabilities, and proximity to traffic hazards.
  • Research the evolution of crosswalk design in Uganda and analyse how changing traffic patterns and urbanization have impacted their effectiveness.
  • Compare Uganda’s crosswalk system with those in other African countries or developing nations facing similar challenges. Identify successful strategies and potential models for adaptation.
  • Feature a compelling story of a pedestrian who has navigated the dangers of Ugandan crosswalks, highlighting the human cost of inadequate infrastructure and inspiring empathy for pedestrians’ struggles.

 

Where roads divide, not connect

Report on the systemic bias baked into road design that prioritises the speed and convenience of cars, leaving pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport users at a disadvantage. Use data, expert voices, and personal narratives, it analyses the misconception that roads belong solely to automobiles.

Sources:

  • Interview urban planners and mobility activists who challenge car-centric design paradigms.
  • Include insights from traffic engineers that analyse data on crashes involving different road users, specifically related to road design.
  • Talk to spokespersons from cycling and pedestrian advocacy groups about safety and accessibility in a car-dominated landscape.

Additional ideas:

  • Research and report on the evolution of road design and how the focus on car-centric infrastructure emerged, uncovering the cultural and economic factors at play.
  • Dedicate a feature or two to the challenges faced by specific vulnerable users, like children crossing busy roads, elderly navigating inaccessible sidewalks, or wheelchair users struggling with narrow walkways.
  • Explore the economic benefits of investing in inclusive infrastructure.

 

Rural road roulette

Uncover the dangers faced by motorcyclists and light passenger van drivers on rural roads. Investigate the unique challenges of rural infrastructure, economic pressures and risky driving behaviours contributing to crashes.

Sources:

  • Interview officers patrolling rural roads to understand common motorcycle and van-related crash scenarios and contributing factors.
  • Talk to drivers themselves about their challenges, safety concerns, and potential solutions for safer rural travel.
  • Include insights from organisations providing safety training and awareness programs for rural drivers.
  • Share the stories of individuals impacted by these crashes, emphasising the economic and social consequences on rural communities.
  • Infrastructure Development Specialists: Discuss potential improvements to rural roads, signage, and lighting to enhance safety for motorcycle and van drivers.

Additional ideas:

  • Capture the challenges and risks faced by motorcycle and van drivers through first-person video or audio recordings on rural roads.
  • Showcase grassroots initiatives led by rural communities to promote safe driving practices and educate each other.
  • Investigate campaigns and policies aimed at increasing helmet use among motorcyclists, highlighting its life-saving potential.

 

The mental wounds of road crashes

Explore the psychological trauma and mental health challenges faced by survivors and their families. Report on the accessibility of mental health support and challenges the social stigma surrounding seeking help.

Sources:

  • Share personal experiences of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder following crashes, highlighting the need for emotional support and understanding.
  • Discuss the prevalence of mental health issues among crash survivors, the limited access to therapy and counselling services, and the cultural barriers to seeking help.
  • Include perspectives from organisations working to destigmatise mental health care and providing support groups for crash survivors.
  • Interview public health officials on the integration of mental health services into post-crash care programs.

Additional ideas:

  • Personal narratives: Feature stories of successful coping mechanisms and resilience among survivors, promoting positive role models and encouraging others to seek help.
  • Myth busting programmes: Organise talkshows and online discussions to debunk misconceptions about mental health and encourage open dialogue about the emotional impact of crashes.

 

Rebuilding lives after road crashes

Report on the systemic challenges hindering effective long-term post-crash care in Uganda. Investigate  gaps in legal frameworks, inadequate compensation for victims, and the lack of coordinated support systems.

Sources:

  • Speak to legal experts to analyse current legislation on compensation for crash victims.
  • Interview police officers and accident investigators on the challenges in crash investigations and evidence gathering, impacting compensation claims and hindering access to support.
  • Talk to key stakeholders responsible for developing and implementing post-crash care policies, advocating for increased funding and reforms.
  • Showcase grassroots efforts or survivor-driven support networks aiming to fill gaps in the system and empower each other in the recovery process.

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