Social and economic effects of road accidents in Kenya

The holiday season is here once again. During this period Kenyans have a very peculiar habit of visiting their kin in the village with all kinds of vehicles to make a mark on their peers in the village.

Due to lack of long road driving experience, most accidents occur at this time. Official road accident statistics are incomplete and inaccurate in Kenya. The level of reporting for injuries treated in hospitals is, on the average, less than 50 per cent. Injuries are not always correctly classified by severity in police accident reports.

The National Transport and Safety Authority and police are doing a very commendable job to reduce accidents on our roads. For example the Nairobi-Naivasha highway has been known to be a black spot for years but accidents on this road have recently reduced. However, more needs to be done by the two departments to improve safety on our roads.

Accidents happen in a fraction of a second but their consequences may last for a lifetime. A large number of road users involved in traffic crashes recover from their injuries, but some of them never recover fully and suffer from some kind of permanent disability.

According to a recent study, 25 per cent of those who survive a road crash must be treated in hospitals as in-patients, while 32 per cent are forced to take sick leave from work of between one and three months and another 29 per cent have to remain away from work for more than three months.

In addition to loss of life or reduced quality of life, road accidents carry many other consequences to the survivors such as legal implications, economic burden, home and vehicle adaptations as well as psychological consequences.

Social disparities in road accident risk are also not very well known. However, individuals who have a low social status are more frequently involved in road accidents than individuals who have a high social status. This tendency applies to all groups of road users. Long-term impacts of traffic injury are poorly documented in Kenya. Little is known about these impacts. There are, however, reasons to believe that an increasing number of people live with lasting impairments as a result of traffic injury.

The burden of accidents is borne not only by those directly involved in traffic accidents but also by their families.

Road accidents induce costs in terms of both human costs and socio-economic costs. Socioeconomic costs include hospitalisation, long-term care, material damage, production and welfare loss. From a welfare point of view, investigating loss in disposable income due to road injuries is of interest.

Drivers who are involved in accidents may suffer a number of adverse consequences even if they are not injured. For example, a driver may be prosecuted for negligence or even manslaughter as a result of an accident. Road crashes are becoming a global crisis and, as such, require comprehensive measures to prevent them, including a better understanding of the social impacts of road-related deaths and injuries.

Road crashes can bring about a lot of difficulties on households, both in developed and developing countries. The seriousness of those difficulties will vary considerably because laws, policies and safety nets are country-specific.

This is why it is relevant and desirable to better understand the social impacts of road crashes in Kenya. And it is equally important to ensure an improvement on road safety as a way of mitigating its negative effects on poverty reduction and economic growth.