Act decisively to curb increasing accidents

The wreckage of a Matatu involved in an accident after colliding with a trailer at the Ngata Bridge area along the Nakuru-Eldoret Highway on April 9, 2024. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The National Transport and Road Safety Authority (NTSA) data paints a grim picture of the situation on Kenyan roads. In recent weeks, there has been an alarming increase in accidents that continue to claim lives. The data shows that in the last three months alone, accidents have killed 1,213 people. This represents a 5.8 per cent increase from a similar period last year.

The time has come for the government to move past rhetoric and act decisively to reverse this disturbing trend. To make a difference, however, requires the active input of not just the government, but stakeholders in the transport sector and citizens as well. 

Traffic police and NTSA officers often take the blame whenever accidents happen, but commuters and pedestrians also contribute to accidents. In Nairobi, for instance, it is common to find pedestrians risking lives by crossing busy roads like Mombasa Road right under a footbridge.

While NTSA officials should act as a deterrent to road carnage, public outrage saw them taken off the roads after many of them were caught soliciting bribes a year ago. Traffic policemen do not fare any better because most of them are notorious for collecting bribes and looking the other way to let overloaded, defective and unroadworthy vehicles continue to ply our roads, putting lives at risk. 

Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen should move past outlining what the government intends to do and actually implement recommendations that will stem the tide of accidents in Kenya. Of the many recommendations, the 2004 Michuki rules stand out and their implementation can turn the situation around.

Importantly, traffic police should be tough with matatu operators and stop playing hide and seek with them. Most PSVs either do not have speed governors or have them installed but have been tampered with. Matatus that should carry 14 passengers end up carrying almost double the number and effortlessly move past police checks and roadblocks.

Many accidents occur in the wee hours and most involve heavy trucks. Former President Daniel arap Moi’s regime had banned trucks from operating between 6pm and 6am. There is need to consider such enforcement under the present circumstances as it can reduce accidents significantly.

Trucks often cause obstruction, especially at night, that results in accidents. The government should therefore create designated places along major roads where trucks can park for the night. 

Lately, too many school buses have been involved in accidents, which demands action that includes giving guidelines on the times the buses should operate. Moreover, their drivers should undergo periodic tests, physical and mental, to determine their suitability. 

The return of NTSA officials to the roads and the installation of speed cameras, while desirable, might not be the answer. A National Road Safety Action Plan 2023-2027 aiming to reduce accidents by 50 percent will not work without political goodwill and concrete action from the government. Human life is not a statistic, it is sacrosanct and must be protected.

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