More than 3,000 lives are lost through largely avoidable road accidents in Kenya every year. The high death toll is fuelled by sereval factors, including poor road designs, reckless driving and unroadworthy vehicles.
And with the lost lives, hundreds of thousands of families are left without a breadwinner, cherished children or spouses. The high death rate is unacceptable in this day and age.
It was therefore highly hoped that the introduction of speed governors on Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) in 2013, would stem the rising road crashes. And indeed, there was a reduced number of fatalities when the gadgets were fitted on matatus and buses. But it was only for a short period because soon after, most drivers devised ways of tampering with the gadgets.
The lull was short-lived and the breakneck speed associated with matatus, especially those plying rural routes and long distances, was back on the road. The impunity among PSV owners and operators, which had been dealt a blow by the so-called Michuki rules, returned with a bang and the accident numbers shot up again.
Last year, pricked by the matatu madness, the government, through the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) introduced the new generation speed governors to try and restore sanity on the roads.
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The new gadgets, which were christened ‘black box’ because of enhanced data collection, were to be certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) and fitted in all PSVs. Some 46 companies were licenced to procure and supply the gadgets to matatu owners. The matatu ‘black box’ could monitor the speed, driving style, the passengers and the location. The gadget could also transmit information real time to the matatu owner, NTSA and the vendor. This promised much relief and many hoped discipline on the roads would be the order of the day.
Unfortunately, as told elsewhere in this newspaper, dealers and the matatu operators have connived to bring in and fit faulty gadgets on their vehicles. This happens in full view of the NTSA, traffic police officers, Kebs officials and the matatu owners. The bogus gadgets have flooded the market, especially because they are cheaper than the original ones, but the risk to Kenyan lives continues to rise largely because of impunity. We therefore urge relevant State agencies to step up vigilance and ensure all PSVs are fitted with the right lifesaving speed governors.