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Police must bear share of blame for road accidents

EDITORIAL
By - | October 10th 2013

Traffic commandant Samuel Kimaru was being economical with the truth when he blamed the police failure to curb road accidents on poor funding.

To their credit, the Members of Parliament were not convinced but instead placed the blame back on the shoulders of corrupt police officers who allowed over-speeding, over-loading and rampant disobedience of traffic rules. Poor road design is also responsible for some of the accidents.

Extortion

Mr Kimaru’s disingenuous attempt to shift responsibility from where it rightly belongs cannot bear any kind of scrutiny because his officers extort money from public vehicle operators openly.

Indeed, the conductors know exactly how much money to pay at each toll station usually made up of make shift road blocks that are mounted daily and usually at the same spot. Perhaps, time has come for the entire Kenyan society to appreciate that money does not and cannot solve all problems.

In some instances more money could even exacerbate the problem it was supposed to solve. Take the issue of traffic policemen, for example.

Additional budgetary allocation to employ more traffic officers would simply translate into PSV operators surrendering a larger share of their earnings to the increased number of officers.

Obviously, the operators would have to recover their extra expenditure from their passengers who would have to pay higher fares. It is hard to imagine how this could possibly lead to safer roads. The same case applies when traffic police officers’ mobility is enhanced. It all amounts to throwing good money after bad because none of this deals with the fundamental problem of ensuring all the people who break the law — including the traffic police officers who take bribes — are brought to book.

Hijacked

Regrettably, instead of the newly created National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) coming up with ways to ensure the existing traffic laws are enforced, it has been hijacked and turned into an instrument to lock out entrepreneurs from the profitable sector.

The irony is that the very lobby group –Matatu Owners Association—working in cahoots with a section of government to create a monopoly started as an organization of individuals owning one or two PSV vehicles.

Why the Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau has chosen to ignore the law created to thwart the emergence of just such monopolistic cartels, perhaps, only he can tell. 

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What is clear, however, is that requiring individuals to own at least 25 or 30 serviceable vehicles before they are licenced will only raise the entry fee for newcomers and increase the power of existing cartels to determine how much such individuals pay them to earn a living in the sector.

But it will not and cannot, by itself, improve road safety. Only ensuring traffic laws breakers are brought to book will reduce deaths on our roads. Period.

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