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Roads and Road Travel



To be blunt, Ugandan roads are dangerous places. Uganda has a road fatality rate almost 11 times greater than the UK, with one of the highest accident rates in Africa. The newspapers are full of stories and letters concerning potholes, lakes in the road, dangerous drivers, and accidents.

In Kampala the roads are so full of potholes, animals and debris that drivers have to weave their way from side to side to make progress - when the traffic is moving fast enough to allow it.

There are some sections of road where tow trucks earn a living without moving from the spot. They lurk next to particularly nasty craters, lakes and ruts, and earn a living by rescuing the constant stream of victims to fall foul of the nonexistent road surface.

Slippery with dust when it's dry, and slick mud after the rains, only an inexperienced driver ever considers exceeding 50mph (80 kph) on the open country roads, and most of the time a more sedate 30 mph is more than enough. Apart from the major roads in large towns and cities, the road surfaces will be devoid of tarmac and consist of red soil rolled hard by the traffic. Red soil rolled hard with ruts, cracks, potholes, and puddles, streams crossing it, occasional piles of abandoned soil and rubble, and the ever-present chickens.

In towns and cities, the situation can be worse. Although the surface may officially have a tarmac coating, in all probability the rural hazards are all still present, augmented by an ever growing number of cycles, motorbikes, mini-vans, cars, carts, 4x4s and busses. In addition, in between all of them, the pedestrians and their animals will be wandering with very little apparent awareness of their dance with death.

In fact, the road conditions are so bad that it is the standing joke in Kampala that if you see a driver going in a straight line, he's probably drunk! (Or the steering has failed)

Not all roads are terrible though, and you will find some stretches that are quite good - flat and with drain covers in place, but these tend to become race tracks were everyone goes faster simply because they can!

The last decade has seen a huge growth in vehicle ownership and use, but very little growth in road quality or driver training. Traffic lights may, or may not, work according to the day of the week and the availability of electricity, road signs seem to vanish as quickly as they are erected, and drain covers vanish to become recycled scrap, leaving cycle swallowing chasms in the road surface.


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