Vandalised road signs and guard rails a nightmare to motorists
By Vincent Mabatuk and Phillip Mwakio
| April 4th 2016
Vandalised road signs, illegal speed bumps and signposts that block motorists’ view have been blamed for many accidents.
At the Mogotio-Eldama Ravine junction, several sign posts erected by State and private institutions block motorists’ view and almost cause accidents on a daily basis.
Along the Nakuru-Eldoret highway and the Nakuru-Kabarnet road, vandals have stolen roadside barriers, guardrails, steel grid and steel reinforcements, threatening the safety of road users.
Rift Valley traffic enforcement officer Mary Omari said the traffic road signs enhance the safety of the users and interfering with them is a criminal offence.
Simon Kiptoo, a truck driver, lamented that missing road signs and unmarked roads continue to pose a danger to motorists, with visitors to new areas suffering the most.
There is also an increase in cases of theft of guardrails, angle irons at steep sections such as Sachangwan and the Molo quarries, with no replacement, which makes the roads unsafe.
In one incident, Nelson Maina, a driver on the road hit and killed two cows at Saos trading centre, along the Emining-Eldama Ravine road exactly at a defaced animal crossing sign.
Last year, a nursery school child was crushed and killed by a speeding matatu at Kamelilo along the Nakuru-Eldama Ravine road on her way to school, days after a road sign was vandalised without replacement.
“It is very humiliating, not to mention dangerous, when you accidentally drive in the wrong direction on a busy one-way street because you are new to certain areas and there are no road signs showing it is a one-way street,” said Eunice Mwaringa after she was confronted by boda boda operators on a Nakuru street.
A Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) engineer who wished to remain anonymous said the repair and replacement of traffic signs depended on the availability of materials.
He said there were no specific time frames in which these signs had to be replaced.
He said roadside barriers are used to protect traffic from roadside obstacles or hazards, such as slopes steep enough to cause roll-over crashes, fixed objects like bridge piers and water bodies.
“A bridge barrier is designed to restrain vehicles from crashing off the side of a bridge and falling onto the roadway. These are very essential and must be replaced any time they get damaged,” he said.
Vandalism is not only common in the Rift Valley, but also other parts of the country.
Cases of vandalism
Kenya Rural Roads Authority Mt Kenya Region Manager James Kabiru said there had been over 10 cases of vandalism of road signs reported in Othaya and Mukurweini sub-counties on the newly constructed roads.
“We stopped using metal for our sign posts to deter vandalism, but now the composite road signs made of plastic are being vandalised and left on the side of the road,” Mr Kabiru said.
He explained that each sign post costs Sh25,000 to construct and put up, and it was unfortunate that there was a deliberate attempt by locals to pull down the structures.
“Kenyans need to understand that aside from the financial cost of vandalism, destroying road signs can cost lives because motorists are unaware of the dangers ahead,” Kabiru explained.
Former Roads Minister Franklin Bett blamed most road accidents especially along the Kericho–Kisumu as well as Kericho-Litein roads on the substandard paints, which contractors use to mark the routes.
“The paint that was used to mark the roads is substandard, and fades as soon as it is painted. As a former Roads minister, I signed for proper road works to be done and I know what I am talking about,” he said.
In a bid to safeguard the road assets, (KeNHA) last year rolled out an ambitious strategy aimed at ensuring road safety.
KeNHA Corporate Affairs Manager Charles Njogu said the Road Corridor Management strategy would see the authority streamline the monitoring of the main highways in a bid to curb overloading, vandalism and protect the road infrastructure.
The main highways, which have suffered from plunder as a result of vandalism and which KeNHA stated are now on a round-the-clock watch, include corridor one that comprises Mombasa to Athi River, Emali to Loitoktok, Namanga to Rironi and the Nairobi Southern bypass, all totalling 775kms.
A section of the Mombasa-Nairobi highway at Bonje between Mazeras and Miritini has a large portion where guard rails made of aluminium were vandalised.
“They (barriers) guided motorists from plunging into deep gorges that form on the sides of the highway in some sections, and also aided motorists driving in opposite lanes to and from Nairobi,” said Iddi Bata, a long-distance driver.
Mr Bata said since the metal guard rails were vandalised, he had witnessed a number of accidents on the section.
Mr Njogu said corridor two will comprise Rironi to Malaba, Rironi to Kisii and Mau Summit-Kisumu-Busia road, totalling 838kms.
Corridor three will comprise Nairobi to Moyale and Thika to Liboi, totalling 1,337kms.
KeNHA Director General Peter Mundinia said the plan will go a long way in not only safeguarding the identified 2,950kms of the road network, but also the 14,000kms under the jurisdiction of the authority.
“The new structure will see the three corridors managed by teams, which will be strategically located along those routes. The teams will oversee activities such as road surface dressing, pothole patching, erecting of signs and markings along the corridors, bush clearing on the road sides to enhance safety and clearing of storm drainage,” Dr Mundinia said.
The teams will also enforce protection of the road from overloading by truck drivers and ensure compliance to the set Axle Load Limits.
The teams will work closely with the regional offices and Axle Load Enforcement Control Unit to identify major overloading patterns and contain the deterioration of the roads.
Being a new concept, the authority has, however, not been able to arrest any culprits who have either vandalised key road assets or altered road signs, thus interfering with traffic flow.
“We are banking heavily on community participation similar to the Nyumba Kumi initiative where we shall have point-men on the ground who will be reporting directly to the authority any acts of vandalism or encroachment on the road,” Njogu added.
He said part of the concept will include KeNHA undertaking the mapping of the corridors and identifying sections that need improvement such as the need for erection of footbridges, and regulate and control roadside amenities.
“We are integrating CCTV surveillance systems and creating job opportunities by employing people along the corridors as road inspectors to curb vandalism of the road assets,” he said.
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