More deaths, less data on Kenyan roads

Samuel Igari waits to be taken to theatre at the Bungoma County Referral Hospital after he was hit by a motorbike in his home area. PHOTOS: JECKONIA OTIENO

NAIROBI: Twenty-eight-year-old Samuel Igari is recuperating at the Bungoma County Referral Hospital following a nasty accident in Teso where a motorcycle hit him and fractured his right leg.

“I was going to a meeting when I heard a vehicle honk behind me. Before I could react, I was airborne before landing in a heap that resulted in a broken leg,” Igari says.

Passersby helped him into a hired saloon car which took him to hospital at a cost of Sh2,700.

Doctors say it will take him about four months to fully recover. The accident was not reported to the authorities.

At the same hospital is Arch Misikhu who also had a motorbike accident that was not reported. The accident left him with two broken thigh bones and just like Igari, the hospital expects him to buy metal plates worth Sh2,500.

These two are just a small representation of what is now becoming a worrying trend - unreported road crashes.

While the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has in recent days taken on a more aggressive role in reducing road fatalities, could such occurrences be hindering their success? Could the Government be under budgeting for road crashes due to unreported cases?

Bright Oywaya, Director - Association for Safe International Road Travel says it is a reality that there is no system that collates figures from health facilities, response units and the traffic police department.

“There is no connection between hospital and police data. This is why there is a huge disconnect between figures released by the World Health Organisation and by NTSA,” she says.

In November last years, NTSA reported an increase in the number of road crashes as compared to the previous years with pedestrians seen to bear the greatest brunt of crashes.

They noted that the number of reported crashes had reduced slightly in comparison to 2014 while the number of pedestrians, who died from road crashes, had gone up from 1,224 to 1,245.

In 2013, WHO estimated that 12,891 deaths had occurred due to road crashes against the 3,191 reported by NTSA.

This huge discrepancy can also be extended to injuries that also go unreported during a road crash.

At the Bungoma County Referral Hospital, the biggest hospital in Bungoma, lead surgeon -

Dr Asava Amaganga says nine out of ten surgical cases in the wards are as a result of road crashes. Out of these, 90 per cent are from bodaboda crashes with majority of those affected being males.

“Cases include fractured limbs and severe head injuries which require hospitalisation for long periods of time,” Amaganga says.

This has led to strain of the hospital’s resources which only has one surgical theatre that is expected to cater for all cases - not just road crashes.

In 2015, the hospital experienced an upsurge in the number of road traffic crashes with 889 cases recorded, 341 of which were admissions and 21 fatal. In 2014 there were 647 road crash cases reported out of which 147 were admitted while 14 died.

It is, however, not clear whether all the cases were recorded by police or NTSA. And there is still no mechanism to collate data from hospital and traffic authorities.

While accepting that there are road crash incidents that go unreported, deputy police commandant Pius Baraza gives plausible reasons.

One of the case scenarios he gives is that of a person who gets involved in an accident but assumes they are not injured only to start feeling unwell hours or days later. Such a person will then seek medical attention and the hospital that attends to him will list the case as a road traffic crash yet police have no record of it.

Baraza also says there are bodaboda riders who get involved in crashes but because they do not have requisite documentation or experience they check themselves into hospitals without the cases being reported.

“When there are casualties, police get these records because we follow victims to health facilities where we get the details. This is, however, not to say that we reach all such cases because we still have many that go unreported,” he says.

The commandant intimates that one of the ways to stop this trend is to ask insurance companies not to pay crash claims that have not been reported to police.

“This will help us keep tabs on crash cases and be up to date with our records by ensuring we capture all cases that are paid,” he says.

However, Mathew Munyao, NTSA road safety director says despite there being a margin of error, almost all road crashes are recorded.

He insists the numbers are fairly reliable more-so where death is involved.

Munyao says those cases that go unreported are either of people who do not know their rights or those who have flouted the rules and caused the crashes.

“Definitely, those who have caused the crashes would love to escape justice without reporting. But the victims will always report so in one way or the other the report still gets to us,” he says.

The other reason that might make a crash go unreported is when it involves a community and then its members decide not to aggrieve each other thus opting to resolve the matter among themselves without involving authorities.

Dr Amaganga insists that until these figures can tally, it will be difficult to care for or plan for traffic crashes because of under funding occasioned by faulty official figures.

He says this is placing an unnecessary burden on hospitals which are left to handle these increasing numbers.

Oywaya says road crashes cost the economy a tidy sum and calls for harmonised data and investment towards its prevention.

“If you count the amount of money used to treat those who are injured and loss of income incurred it becomes clear that road crashes are costing this country millions of shillings,” she says.