Fact-Checker: CS Rotich could be right on accidents caused by second-hand cars

Second-hand cars at a shipping yard in Japan. Research in several other markets shows that accident risk and the probability of fatalities rise, the older the vehicle. [File, Standard]
Are the second-hand cars to blame for road accidents in the country? Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich last week said part of the government’s policy to propose lowering the age limit for second-hand car imports was to reduce road accidents.

“We want to ensure we do not import old cars like those over eight years which have many risks such as faulty brakes that cause accidents,” he said during a political rally. “We want to make sure people buy new cars and we will give loans to Saccos to make sure they buy new locally assembled cars to enhance road safety.” A look at several studies and data on road accidents indicates that Rotich is partly correct. On the one hand, the vast majority of vehicles in the country are second-hand cars.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the total number of registered motor vehicles, including new and second-hand units, stood at 2.9 million in 2017, up from 2.7 million the previous year. Locally assembled new motor vehicles form a small fraction of this number, with the statistician putting them at 6,541 in 2016, down from 10,181 the previous year.

According to KNBS, the total number of locally manufactured vehicles since 2015 stands at 21,599. This forms just 0.7 per cent of the total number of registered autos in the country - meaning the statistical odds of an accident involving a second-hand vehicle are disproportionately higher.

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However, the high probability of second-hand cars in the local market notwithstanding, research in several other markets have found the accident risk and probability of fatalities rise, the older the vehicle. A study by the US Department of Transportation in 2013 found the driver of a vehicle more than 18 years old at the time of an accident was 71 per cent more likely to be fatally injured than the driver of a vehicle that was three years old or less.

At the same time, drivers with vehicles four to seven years old were 10 per cent more likely to be fatally injured than those whose vehicles were less than three years old or newer. Vehicles that were eight to 11 years old and those that were 12-14 years old were 19 per cent and 32 per cent more likely to cause fatalities than those that are three years old or less. In another study conducted by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology that looked at factors that precipitated road accidents along 80 black spots on the Mombasa-Malaba highway found road surface conditions greatly influenced incidences of road accidents at black spots.

The study also established that to a moderate extent, road conditions, vision, speeding, bad brakes or tyres and trees along the roads were also to blame for road accidents. CS Rotich’s assertion that second-hand cars cause road accidents is thus partly correct. 

Second hand carsRoad accidentsHenry Rotich