The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has announced measures to mitigate indiscipline on our roads. The necessity for these stringent rules was made apparent by the day-long blockade of the Nairobi- Nakuru Highway on Saturday last week.
Impatient drivers devoid of road courtesy caused a massive traffic jam along this major superhighway that not only serves the hinterland, but also serves neighbouring countries Uganda and Rwanda through the Malaba and Busia border points.
In March 2018, motorists spent 13 hours in a traffic jam along the Mombasa Road at Athi River because of an accident. It is difficult to quantify economic losses caused by such gridlocks occasioned by drivers who fail to observe traffic rules and road discipline which, in most cases, end in fatal accidents.
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Indeed, NTSA has decried the rise in road accidents which, by July this year, had shot up to 7,229 compared to 6,181 in July last year. Motorcycle accidents rose to 330 from 284 the prevoius year. Road deaths recorded as of July 2019 were 1,662 compared to 1,500 last year.
These statistics cause despair hence, the need for tougher rules to whip drivers into line. The need to reduce road carnage cannot be overemphasised.
Yet even as NTSA moves to rein in errant drivers and pedestrians, blockades on the Mombasa-Nakuru-Eldoret-Malaba highway should serve as a wake up call for authorities to ensure the hinterland is accessible at all times.
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The cost of such traffic jams should not be viewed in economic terms only; they could be a major cause of insecurity.
Under the new proposed rules, no public service or commercial vehicle driver’s licence will be renewed without the holder undergoing a mandatory retraining and retesting process in accordance with the newly prescribed modules that come into effect on November 1, 2019. According to NTSA, this will feature a physical fitness test, including an eye and hearing test, by qualified medical practitioners.
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The authority has already developed a curriculum for training and testing of drivers and instructors, with an appeal for legislative support from the National Assembly towards operationalisation of the new module. As part of the measures being implemented, the Government has deregistered 332 of driving schools that failed the recent revalidation exercise that sought to establish their levels of compliance with the provisions and requirements for driving school registration.
The agency has established that a defective driver training, testing and licensing system has been one of the major causal factors of road accidents and this has been aggravated by the recent proliferation of backstreet driving schools.
Such schools do not impart the required skills and knowledge to make our roads safe. Motorcyclists, most of whom patronise unlicenced driving schools perhaps because of the affordable fee, pose serious danger that should be dealt with. Issuance of driving licences is also set to change, with the Government now seeking to roll out merit-based smart licenses, whereby drivers are rated according to road offences committed.
Further, there will be annual vehicle emission testing for public service vehicles and biennially for private vehicles over five years old, issuance of instant fines as per the Traffic (Minor Offences)Rules of 2016 and introduction of new generation number plates that will restrain counterfeits and duplication.
Any form of accident causes massive loss to individuals, their families and the country at large. Past findings show human errors are leading causes of the accidents.
Kenya losses more than 2,000 people annually while others are left nursing serious wounds. These have serious implications on the society.
But even as we blame drivers for accidents, traffic police officers play a major part in their occurrences.
Many are times defective vehicles have caused fatal accidents metres away from police check points, and that is because an officer took a bribe to look the other way. This disdain for human life must end.
Accidents that can be avoided need not to happen, and these proposed measures are clearly part of the efforts to address the road menace.