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Michuki Rules matter of life and death

By | December 28th 2010 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Conservative estimates of Christmas weekend road accident deaths stand at 30 and the injuries countless. Most of them involved crashes involving private cars and commercial passenger vehicles.

In one chilling case a family of five was killed when their car collided with a bus in Maragwa on Christmas Day.

The driver of the smaller car was reportedly struggling to avoid hitting a pothole. In all likelihood he or she could have been speeding and the result was instant death for the person at the wheel and those on the passenger seats.

Another of the horror crashes took place at the Thuci River Bridge, the perennial killer spot in Nithi, along on the Embu-Chuka Road. Four died on Christmas Eve when their bus plunged into the river, while over 20 were badly injured.

Survivors revealed the accident took place after the driver began speeding following complaints by his passengers he was driving slowly. At the Gatirima area on Nyahururu-Kinamba road, four more passengers died after their driver lost control and their vehicle rolled several times.

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Road crashes also claimed lives in Kisumu and the notorious Mbaruk stretch on the Nakuru-Nairobi Highway.

Whenever a festive season approaches the Police Traffic Department predictably announces the so-called ‘Michuki Rules’ will be enforced to the letter.

Similarly, when the road crashes claim a ‘sizeable’ number of people, say 50 in one swish of the hand, the nation goes into mourning as the State, again, vows the rules will be enforced to the letter.

roguish nature

On Madaraka Day the President’s message to police was clear: Enforce the rules and haul unroadworthy vehicles off the roads.

It would be irresponsible of us to drum up the notion that the "Michuki Rules’, whose hallmark is installation of working speed governors for commercial and passenger vehicles capping the speed at 80 kilometres per hour, would, on their own, win us the war against road accidents.

Of paramount importance, of course, is for our motorists to embrace an attitude change that will change the roguish nature of those behind the wheel, discourage speeding and dangerous manoeuvres, as well as ensure that drink-driving is detected early and punished severely.

Because our drivers are sure to be back behind the wheel if they survive a road crash, the deterrent measure of blacklisting ‘dangerous’ drivers only exists in the books.

That is why most Kenyans are unaware of drivers who have been banned either for life or even six months from driving on our roads.

The second centre of focus is smoothness and safety of our roads. It is common sense that every driver will try and avoid a pothole, and to do this, they have to swerve onto the lane reserved for oncoming vehicles.

Most times, the drivers facing each other try to beat each other to the pothole, an endeavour that is most times akin to playing Russian roulette with their lives.

But we could easily ignore these suicidal tendencies were it not for the fact that, as we have seen from these Christmas accidents, their passengers usually are the innocent sacrificial lambs.

Some drivers are aware of the tragic consequence of speeding but have this queer, unrealistic and fatalistic attitude that those destined to die will die anyway, and accidents are just that — accidents.

It is this wrong attitude that has killed or dragged our national conscience to the point that we do not even see the speeding and inebriated drivers who end up killing their passengers, often times with themselves too, as murderers.

pay lip service

It is this attitude that has seen us treat as normal, to lose at least 3,000 lives to road accidents every year. Thousands of others are left with injuries they have to live with for the rest of their lives, while others are reduced from breadwinners to basket cases. The toll on the economy is immeasurable and fatal.

Yet, we do not have to look to the West for an answer — three months after the ‘Michuki Rules’ were enforced in February 2004, road accidents in Kenya fell by 74 per cent while accidents involving urban transport vehicles dropped by 94 per cent!

To pay lip service to "Michuki Rules" is, therefore, to be complicit in the murder of Kenyans.

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