Road accidents now a top agenda on world business

By Roseleen Nzioka

Count six seconds...one, two, three, four, five, six.

In those six seconds someone has just been killed or injured in a road accident somewhere in the world.

The global death toll from road accidents is estimated to reach 1.9 million people annually by 2020 up from the current 1.3million. The current figure is equivalent to wiping out the entire population of a country like Mauritius!

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The world has taken note and the world is taking action to reverse this state of affairs.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 the launch of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety was held in Nairobi and many other cities across the world.

The decade of action for road safety is among the recommendations of the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety held in Moscow in November 2009.

Kenya’s Transport Minister Amos Kimunya said for this decade of action to succeed a lot will depend on road users, especially drivers, riders and pedestrians.

In a ministerial statement, Kimunya said that between 2011 and 2020, governments worldwide are expected to formulate measures to ensure significant reduction in road traffic fatalities and injuries.

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UN stats show that 1.3 million people die and about 50 million are injured around the world each year in road accidents.

In Kenya the statistics are grim with about 3,000 people dying annually and thousands others getting injured in road accidents. This is one of the highest road fatalities in the world.

It is estimated that road accidents cost the country between 1 to 3 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product.

It is commendable that the UN has put road accidents on its agenda and at the same level with leading threats such as tuberculosis, HIV/Aids and malaria.

It is also commendable that the government has gone ahead and beyond the UN launch and established the National Road Safety Council to implement the Road Safety Action Plan 2009-2014.

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It is my hope that one of the key drivers of this council would be the indefatigable former Transport Minister John Michuki. Under his watch, Kenya briefly experienced sanity on the roads in the first half of this decade after the adoption of what became commonly known as the ‘Michuki Rules.’ These rules briefly brought a semblance of regulation in the road sector especially with the public service vehicles.

No sooner had Michuki exited the ministry than we plunged back to the insane, reckless, fatalistic Kenyan driving style that has given us the unenviable position and reputation of having some of the deadliest roads on the planet.

Road carnage in Kenya is mainly caused by unregulated matatus, with passengers accounting for 38 per cent of the total road accidents deaths.

The National Road Safety Council should hit the ground running. As I write this piece I would like it known that nobody I have asked knows where the council offices are or any initiative they have taken so far in mitigating road carnage, yet the clock is ticking.

In Kenya the importance of road safety is all-too-often underestimated until an accident injures or kills a "big person," (Kenyan parlance for a dignitary). This should not be the case. Every single life matters.

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