The recent spate of road carnage has created unbearable personal, family, social and national stress, a strained relationship with the leadership, and a bitter taste amongst the people. This is especially so since the worst and most of the accidents happened during family celebrations of end of year festivities.
While safety on roads should be a responsibility shared by Government agencies, drivers of public and private vehicles and the public, the brunt of blame is borne by lack of enforcement of traffic rules and regulations. Rules and regulations should be aggressively enforced, and firm, consistent punishment meted out to offenders.
According to sociologist William Graham Sumner “everywhere one meets fraud, corruption, ignorance, selfishness, and all the other vices of human nature of cupidity, lust, vindictiveness, ambition, and vanity”.
Sumner finds such human nature to be in all people, in all places, and in all stations in society. Tempted, therefore, human beings inherently fall prey to breaking the law and unless checked by law enforcement agencies, their propensity to defying law and order increases with their perception of the apparent impunity.
While the public may share responsibility for road accidents by not shunning carriers that break the law, it is more of passing the buck, since there is no alternative transport to turn to, that does not defy the same rules. As consumers of the public transport service, the public is the best judge of what problems contribute to incessant road carnage.
Accidents happen when drivers of public and private vehicles and of motor cycles overtake on continuous yellow lines, change lanes, and jump red lights. Drivers overlap and speed on sharp bends and blind corners.
Incidentally, what became of the speed governors? Why do policemen waylay the motorists at road bends and on top of a hill to stop them when they have already broken the speed limits and overtaken at yellow lines? The enforcement agents in hired vehicles chase law breakers till they crash or roll at the next bend. Motorists, and especially matatus and motorcyclists, drive on the right and against oncoming traffic on climbing lanes.
Drivers ignore pedestrian crossings, stop and pick up passengers at non-designated places. They stop in the middle of roads and on highways. They drive at night without head lights, on smooth tyres and otherwise unroadworthy vehicles as has been evident at many accident sites.
All these offences are committed in full view of the police. The hefty fines implicit not withstanding since they are not enforced.
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The claim that the high number of accidents is a result of shortage of police officers is unconvincing. It is true, however, that the police cannot be everywhere. But it is also true that they need not be in areas like the dreaded Salgaa.
This sensitization of the public on their role in management of road accidents should be carried out through the media, caravans, churches, public rallies and all captive audiences to increase awareness.
Measures should include strict use of foot bridges, foot paths and pedestrian crossings, avoiding boarding overloaded vehicles, exercise of courtesy on the roads, observance of speed limits, giving way to pedestrians and obeying traffic rules.
National stability is based, inter alia, on an assumed social contract of public services between the people and the government.
People accept state authority so long as the state delivers services in acceptable quality and quantity. With decline, and worsening state safety service on the roads, the social contract is already broken. This could result in violent conflicts.
There can be nothing more painful to the public than, for example, the police accident post mortem reports of losses of nearly 160 lives in 5 days. Recently, five people riding on one motorcycle were killed in a head-on collision with a vehicle.
Unless urgently checked, criticisms could lead to civilian action against the establishment; leading to serious violent conflicts due to poor service delivery. It happened in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt.
Over to you public service providers. Stop passing the buck and salvage the situation, before losing the chance to do so.
Mr Kimani is a consultant in Conflict management and Counselling [email protected]