Why we should do more for road accident victims

Naivasha Mp Jane Kihara joins stakeholders in signing a plague to mark World Day of Remembrance which was marked in Naivasha with speeding, careless overtaking and drunk driving identified as the major causes of road carnage. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

On November 19th, Kenya joined the world in marking the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

The day was endorsed by the UN in 2005 to be marked on the third Sunday of every November. The commemoration was to put on spotlight road traffic victims and their families, acknowledge the crucial work of emergency service providers, draw attention to legal issues and provide better support for victims.

According to statistics, road accidents have been an ever-present danger since the 1890s when motor vehicles became commonplace. The first death by a vehicle is recorded as having happened on 17th August 1896 at Crystal Palace in Britain. However, it is in the developing world where accidents continue to cause great havoc compared to developed countries where systems and laws have greatly contributed to low numbers.

According to NTSA, we lost 4,690 people to road accidents and close to 10,000 people suffered injuries in 2022. This is not a small number given that some incidents were not recorded.

As an accident victim, I know too well some of the biggest challenges faced by victims and their families. First, the process of seeking insurance compensation is too long if one is lucky to actually have the knowledge and capacity to follow through.

I mean few people know what to do in case of an accident and many are likely to end up in the hands of so-called ambulance chasers. In court, the case is likely to drag on forever and when it is ruled on, another challenge of execution ensues.

Accidents involving government vehicles present a unique challenge. Moreover, few accidents are properly investigated and the likelihood of losing out illegitimately is high. The punishment for those found guilty of reckless driving is also sometimes not worth it.

In my case, the driver was sentenced to three months imprisonment while I nursed lifetime repercussions. Even without compensation, as some may not be eligible, all accident victims and their families require support.

According to WHO, accidents are the greatest cause of death among people aged 5-29. Many survivors are in that age group too. In Kenya, most deaths occur to people between the ages of 20 and 44. Many of the times, over 80 per cent of the annual figures given by NTSA are men.

A number of casualties are young people in the boda boda sector or other jua kali engagements and most with young families too. In the case of death, their families remain without a breadwinner and in the event of a gross injury, their capacity to provide is greatly hampered and instead, they themselves become a burden in society. Those who get injured while in employment are more likely to be let off, sometimes in the harshest manner. Those who die are forgotten and their families are left to wallow in misery. We must do more.

-The writer is an anchor at Radio Maisha

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