A new study examining motorcycle taxis in Uganda found that both drivers and passengers of a safety-conscious company generally engaged in safer behaviors when compared to other drivers and passengers.
The research was published in Injury Prevention and took a two-pronged approach to study the issue: surveys and roadside observation of motorcycle taxi drivers. Researchers surveyed 400 drivers and observed 3,000 over the course of the study. Drivers employed by the company SafeBoda, which actively promotes safety among its employees, accounted for half of the surveyed drivers and 1.6 percent (49) of the observed drivers.
Motorcycle taxis, known locally as boda-boda, are an important part of transportation in East Africa. The city of Kampala in Uganda, where the study was conducted, has an estimated 50,000-80,000 motorcycle taxi drivers. In 2015, boda-boda drivers were involved in 28.2 percent of all road traffic crashes in the country. Among the surveyed drivers, 33.5 percent of the regular drivers said they were involved in a collision in the past six months, compared to 21.5 percent of SafeBoda drivers.
SafeBoda was selected as a motorcycle taxi company with a focus on safety, and it provides mandatory safety training as well as a reflective jacket and two helmets to its employees, one helmet for the driver and one for the passenger. The company also provides hair nets to help address passenger hygiene concerns around using shared helmets.
On the survey, SafeBoda drivers were more likely to report they had a driver’s license and a reflective jacket, and they were less likely to report they talked on the phone while driving, drove against oncoming traffic, or carried more than one passenger when compared to other drivers. In roadside observations, the SafeBoda drivers were more likely to be observed carrying only one passenger, which is associated with increased safety, but were also more likely to be observed using a mobile phone, which is an unsafe behavior. However, the small number of SafeBoda drivers recorded during roadside observations makes it difficult to draw larger generalizations, the authors noted.
The authors suggested that safety training and the availability of safety equipment helped encourage safer behaviors, though they did note that SafeBoda may also attract drivers and passengers who already prioritize safety. They also stated that SafeBoda encourages a community culture among their drivers, so drivers who feel they are being observed by their coworkers may be more likely to follow good safety practices than unaffiliated counterparts.
The lead author on the study was Kennedy Muni, MPH, a 2017-2018 Fogarty Fellow in global health and doctoral candidate in the Department of Epidemiology in the University of Washington School of Public Health. HIPRC Global Injury section lead Charles Mock, M.D., MPH, was a co-author on the study, as well as Dr. Olive Kobusingye of Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda; James Hughes, Ph.D., of the UW School of Public Health Department of Biostatistics; Philip Hurvitz, Ph.D., of the UW College of Built Environments Urban Form Lab; and Brandon Guthrie, Ph.D., of the UW Department of Global Health in the Schools of Medicine and Public Health. The study was supported by the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health.