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Let's make this Christmas accident-free

By Grace Mbula | December 23rd 2015

The Good Book records the angel's words to the shepherds: "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people." The festive season is upon us again, yet tragically, the season is often punctuated by great grief as many grapple with the demise of their loved ones, their lives snuffed out by mindless road carnage.

As history would have it, the only lesson men learn from it is that they learn absolutely nothing!

As we approach the festive season, fellow Kenyans will need to take every precaution to be safe. According to a recent report by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), road accidents increased by almost 4 per cent in 2015 as compared to 2014.

Road fatalities claim over 3,000 Kenyan lives annually and while the reports convert these numbers to mere statistics, it is important to examine this issue deeply.

Although road accidents and the attendant fatalities have become commonplace, they tend to dramatically surge around the festive season.

One possible explanation for this is the fact that the number of travellers peaks as friends and family come together for the season's festivities. Due to the numerous holiday parties and gatherings, impaired driving is quite common and is responsible for claiming many lives.

Festive season euphoria pushes people to do things that are not rational, and as a result, many throw caution to the wind.

In a bid to catch last minute shopping deals, holiday shoppers are generally in a mad rush and confusion reigns supreme. In this chaos, some motorists will have impaired judgment due to the stress and anxiety of the season. As excitement peaks, we should endeavor to inject sanity in order to evade tragedy.

Traffic laws worldwide forbid driving while impaired either by drugs, alcohol, or fatigue and perpetrators are severely punished.

As long as drivers get behind the wheel while impaired, they risk being involved in accidents. This should be the first safety precaution for every driver. Impaired individuals should be passengers and not drivers.

Other causes of road carnage are lack of adherence to traffic laws, speeding and overloading of vehicles.

Drivers should drive at speeds that ensure  safe arrival to their destinations, and should also avoid overloading vehicles as this compromises the balance on the road.

Police should be supplied with highway patrol vehicles in order to best enforce traffic rules. Drivers should also make use of headlights whenever in traffic as this will better aid their visibility and that of other motorists. Lastly, drivers should their horns and turn signals to communicate their intentions.

Bicycle riders, motorcyclists and other roadside machinery must ride with, not against other traffic as this will reduce traffic commotion.

Pedestrian sidewalks should be restricted to pedestrians only. Motorbike and bicycle operators should be mindful of pedestrians and shouldn't assume that their pathway is intentionally being blocked.

Pedestrians on the other hand should be aware of oncoming motorists and guard their safety.

Fatigue is another significant factor in highway crashes. If you are feeling sleepy or tired, or unaware of your environment, you might be fatigued. If your driving is erratic and similar to drunk driving, you might be fatigued.

If you are unable to get comfortable, or have tired or burning eyes, you might be fatigued. Do not continue to drive if you are fatigued, instead pull off the road and rest.

Here are suggestions to reduce highway monotony:
• Relax and avoid road rage
• Play the radio to stay alert
• Engage in light conversation but keep your eyes on the road
• Stop periodically to stretch, get fresh air, and have a beverage

If every motorist takes personal responsibility for their own safety, the number of accidents and fatalities will plummet.

We can all help law enforcement by reporting impaired drivers. Be certain to note the location (road, estate, county), vehicle description (number plate, colour, make, model), approximate time elapsed since observing violator, and description of violation observed.

Remember this: Your life is in your hands. Careless driving can snuff out your life or your neighbour's. You don't want this Christmas to be your last one, do you? Drive safely.

And remember, "Life is for the living." My challenge to my beloved Kenyans: Let's make Christmas 2015 accident-free.

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