Road Safety

Why Only Decisive Action Can Save Us from the Resurgence of Road Carnage

Last week’s road acci­dent on the Nairo­bi-Mom­basa High­way, claim­ing 11 lives from Keny­at­ta Uni­ver­si­ty, res­onat­ed deeply with every par­ent, I includ­ed. In anoth­er unfath­omable inci­dent last week, I wit­nessed heavy night traf­fic caused by a drunk­en dri­ver who halt­ed his car in the mid­dle of Mom­basa Road, suc­cumb­ing to sleep on the wheel near the Imara Daima diver­sion. In Kenya, road acci­dents and inci­dents are wide­spread, tak­ing thou­sands of lives annu­al­ly and leav­ing fam­i­lies in mourn­ing while impact­ing the coun­try’s progress.

The Nation­al Trans­port and Safe­ty Author­i­ty (NTSA) reports a dis­tress­ing surge in fatal­i­ties, with 563 lives lost in the first six weeks of 2024 alone, an increase from the pre­vi­ous year. The grim real­i­ty is that Kenya’s roads, arter­ies of com­merce and con­nec­tion, have become con­duits of calami­ty. While NTSA has made strides in enhanc­ing safe­ty for pub­lic ser­vice vehi­cles, such as requir­ing two dri­vers for long-dis­tance trips, a wor­ry­ing trend has emerged in the school bus sec­tor, where we are wit­ness­ing an increase in acci­dents involv­ing chil­dren. This calls for delib­er­ate action to address this spe­cif­ic area of concern.

What trou­bles me deeply is that these fatal­i­ties are pre­ventable. Why then aren’t they pre­vent­ed? What can we do to dras­ti­cal­ly reduce road fatal­i­ties? What can we learn from oth­er regions in the world? Let’s explore these ques­tions togeth­er so that we can col­lec­tive­ly find solu­tions that can deliv­er much safer roads.

Pedes­tri­ans suf­fer the most in road acci­dents, lead­ing to wide­spread grief among fam­i­lies and sig­nif­i­cant eco­nom­ic impacts due to lost pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and health­care costs. Address­ing the three root caus­es of our acci­dents is essen­tial for safer roads.

First­ly, the human ele­ment is piv­otal. The Kenya Urban Roads Author­i­ty (KURA) has in the past revealed that over 57 per­cent of all acci­dents are because of basic human errors. If we tack­le and pre­vent these errors, road acci­dents will reduce sub­stan­tial­ly. As such, we must accept that it is most essen­tial to retest dri­vers’ com­pe­tence and instill behav­ioral change through con­tin­u­ous edu­ca­tion. Road respon­si­bil­i­ty and dri­ving com­pe­tence are a func­tion of time and must nev­er con­clude just because one has fin­ished dri­ving school. Fur­ther­more, com­mon­sense road behav­ior must be ampli­fied and rein­forced. For instance, how do you sit to dri­ve when you are fatigued or drunk?

Sec­ond­ly, bad trans­port infra­struc­ture has result­ed in increased acci­dents. Pot­holes, poor sig­nage, and inad­e­quate light­ing, along with nar­row roads, cre­ate haz­ardous con­di­tions in Kenya. It’s cru­cial for both nation­al and coun­ty gov­ern­ments to urgent­ly address these issues, ensur­ing all tar­ma­cked roads are clear­ly marked for enhanced vis­i­bil­i­ty and safe­ty. I wish I could give a cold wake-up call to those road con­trac­tors and offi­cials respon­si­ble for our dan­ger­ous roads, by plung­ing them into freez­ing water for 81 min­utes or giv­ing them a fig­u­ra­tive ‘prop­er head-smash’ of realization!

Third­ly, the con­di­tion of vehi­cles is crit­i­cal, neces­si­tat­ing strin­gent stan­dards for inspec­tion and reg­u­lar checks to ensure safe­ty. Faulty vehi­cles lead to road fatal­i­ties. That’s why we must sup­port Inte­ri­or Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Kithure Kindiki’s recent announce­ment for the imme­di­ate com­mence­ment of a nation­wide crack­down of unroad­wor­thy vehi­cles to curb road acci­dents. How­ev­er, such crack­downs must be the order of the day, not occa­sion­al occur­rences. The trag­ic Lon­di­ani acci­dent last year, where a truck lost con­trol and caused 52 deaths, high­lights the urgent need for strin­gent vehi­cle inspec­tions to pre­vent such avoid­able dis­as­ters on our roads.

Kenya can learn from glob­al mod­els like Swe­den’s Vision Zero, New Zealand’s Safe Sys­tem Approach, and the Nether­lands’ Sus­tain­able Safe­ty Vision to reduce road fatal­i­ties. These strate­gies which I had the rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to study, focus on antic­i­pat­ing human error, pro­mot­ing safe road use, and cat­e­go­riz­ing roads for tar­get­ed safe­ty mea­sures. If these coun­tries can achieve sig­nif­i­cant results, so can we!

By pro­mot­ing a cul­ture of safe­ty through sus­tained aware­ness cam­paigns and adopt­ing a proac­tive, com­pre­hen­sive approach informed by glob­al best prac­tices, Kenya can effec­tive­ly reduce road acci­dents. Dere­va, chun­ga maisha! Think green, act green!

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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