Automotive Industry, Road Safety

Why The Recent Londiani Accident Should Be A Turning Point For Kenya’s Road Safety

Last Tues­day, I par­tic­i­pat­ed in the pop­u­lar Twit­ter Spaces dis­cus­sion orga­nized by Madam Claire Munde of Roy­al Media Ser­vices. This time the sub­ject was on road safe­ty in Kenya and the par­tic­i­pants were upbeat with amaz­ing solu­tions worth Gov­ern­ment and pub­lic consideration.

But the recent Lon­di­ani acci­dent pre-occu­pied my mind the whole time. At the famous Lon­di­ani junc­tion, motorists stop right in the mid­dle of the road to buy roast maize or fresh veg­eta­bles. On their part, hawk­ers swarm around the junc­tion due to slow traf­fic caused by the many road bumps there. Iron­i­cal­ly, these speed bumps are meant to reduce inci­dents of motorists hit­ting pedestrians.

This self-per­pet­u­at­ing harm­ful cycle plays out on our roads across the coun­try due to three major chal­lenges: a care­less road cul­ture; enforce­ment defi­cien­cy and poor road infrastructure.

In order to suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le these chal­lenges and restore safe­ty on our roads, we need to ful­ly embrace the three Es of road design: engi­neer­ing, edu­ca­tion and enforcement.

On the engi­neer­ing front, our roads and vehi­cles must adhere to glob­al stan­dards. For instance, a junc­tion like Lon­di­ani that caters for both through traf­fic and local traf­fic, must make pro­vi­sions for the resul­tant human traf­fic at the loca­tion. While erect­ing bumps there sought to slow down vehi­cles and pro­tect pedes­tri­ans, it has result­ed in the unin­tend­ed deaths of 52 Kenyans many of who were hawkers.

Clear­ly, the Kenya Nation­al High­ways Author­i­ty needs to work hand in glove with Coun­ty Gov­ern­ments to ensure devel­op­ment of suf­fi­cient off-road mar­kets along busy high­ways. This has already been done at the for­mer Soko Mjin­ga in Kiambu Coun­ty, where motorists detour to buy their food­stuff from Soko Mpya mar­ket, a safe dis­tance away from the busy high­way. This is the norm in devel­oped coun­tries and must be repli­cat­ed countrywide.

This brings us to the sec­ond E – Edu­ca­tion. We must deploy edu­ca­tion to ful­ly com­bat our care­less road cul­ture. This edu­ca­tion starts in dri­ving schools. In the USA, Europe and Japan, dri­ving schools charge stu­dents an equiv­a­lent of between Kshs 100,000 and Ksh 300,000, which is almost ten times more than what Kenyan dri­ving schools charge. What they teach stu­dents is also vast­ly more thor­ough than what we offer here.

Truth be told, while vir­tu­al­ly all licensed dri­vers can move a vehi­cle from point A to B, their holis­tic road skills don’t always mea­sure up. A driver’s first respon­si­bil­i­ty is to ensure the road­wor­thi­ness of the vehi­cle they are driving.

This means that mechan­i­cal mal­func­tion like brake fail­ure doesn’t just hap­pen out of the blues. Yet they often post­pone mechan­i­cal repair due to a vari­ety of reasons.

This brings me to the final E – Enforce­ment. Although we have world class traf­fic laws, their enforce­ment is severe­ly wanting.

Accord­ing to the Ethics and Anti-Cor­rup­tion Commission’s 2021 Nation­al Ethics and Cor­rup­tion Sur­vey, the Kenya Police ranked first among gov­ern­ment Depart­ments and Agen­cies where one is most like­ly to encounter cor­rup­tion and uneth­i­cal prac­tices. Such is the cor­rup­tion that caus­es some of our traf­fic police to turn a blind eye to defi­cient vehicles.

How­ev­er, it takes two to tan­go, so motorists who bribe are just as guilty as the police who receive the bribes. Both must be held liable because such cor­rup­tion often has fatal consequences.

Final­ly, safe­ty on our roads starts at the point where vehi­cles or motor­cy­cles are made. Since a major­i­ty of the vehi­cles import­ed are sec­ond hand, we must ensure thor­ough inspec­tion of those vehi­cles before ship­ment and fol­lowed by con­sis­tent bian­nu­al local inspection.

Accord­ing to the Nation­al Trans­port and Safe­ty Author­i­ty (NTSA), since 2018 we have lost 19,803 Kenyans to road acci­dents. Between Jan­u­ary and July this year 2,300 Kenyans have already lost their lives on our roads.  This is almost half the 5,689 Kenyans who died from Covid-19 from 2020 to 2023. We must there­fore enforce road safe­ty with the same fer­vor with which we fought Covid-19. 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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