“I dread listening, reading and watching the catalogue of deaths and injuries every time from the media.” These were remarks made by Hon. Lee Kinyanjui, the chairman of National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) during the Association of Kenya Insurers (AKI) awards held on Thursday. Sadly, if drivers and other road users are not extra cautious, such headlines will reign on the mainstream media especially as we approach the festivities.
Road accidents cost Kenya 5% of its GDP. This cost goes into catering for the people who perish after accidents or those who are seriously injured. These social and economic costs eat into the GDP rather than being used constructively for the betterment of people’s lives. The Association of Kenya Insurers (AKI) has already spent 21.5 billion shillings on insurance, repaying the people who have been affected by road accidents.
It is sad to note that 85.5% of the reported cases of road accidents are caused by human error. This leaves one wondering whether those responsible for ferrying passengers are devoid of human feelings. However, it is not right to entirely blame drivers and bodaboda riders for these accidents. Pedestrians, too, are to blame for failing to observe simple traffic rules.
At the event, some of the pertinent issues on road safety that stood out are:-
Adherence to proper behaviour
Most injuries are not the result of terminal illnesses or inevitable causes but result from human error. Some road accidents can be avoided if people were to be a bit more cautious. Matatu owners, drivers and all the stakeholders in the public transport sector should ensure that all the vehicles are fitted with functional seat belts and speed governors to curb the fatalities that result from accidents. Passengers on the other hand should ensure they fasten their seat belts once they board the vehicles, refuse to board an overloaded or unworthy vehicle, board vehicles at designated points and report speeding or drunk drivers to the police.
Pedestrians should also ensure their safety by utilizing designated facilities such as footbridges, underpasses and clearly set crossing points on busy highways. Failure to observe this will lead to unnecessary accidents that could have been avoided.
Conducting mandatory training for drivers
This training will be launched and conducted by the NTSA where a standardized curriculum will apply all over Kenya. All drivers will be trained on first aid and customer care. This will improve the services offered by drivers and their bus conductors. Road checks on the drivers will also be conducted especially those who drive at night.
The bodaboda revolution has swept across the country and gained prominence especially in the rural areas. This type of transport is flexible and able to reach some areas that vehicles would not. These motorcycles also come in handy when one is caught up in the crazy Nairobi traffic and need to get to their destination as fast as possible. They are able to manoeuvre through traffic and move faster. However, this industry remains unregulated. There are thousands of untrained riders on the roads who are entrusted with the task of getting passengers to their destination. Sometimes they arrive safely but this is not always the case. The untrained riders often cause accidents increasing the number of fatalities and injuries reported. AKI intends to come up with innovative products to cover this bodaboda industry.
Smart Driving Licence
In the light of the technological advancement, NTSA intends to launch data integrated smart driving licence that has a certain number of points. Whenever a driver commits traffic offences such as drunk driving or over speeding, some points will be deducted until that point whenever the driving licence will be just a dummy and the driver will be required to go back to a driving class to learn of all the mistakes they made and how to rectify them in future. According to Mr. Lee Kinyanjui, no sins on roads will be forgotten with this kind of driving licences. NTSA has promised tough measures to curb bad driving and now drivers will have to face the consequences of bad driving.
There is need to change road users mindsets and involve everyone in making our roads safer through public education campaigns and dissemination of information on safe use of our roads. Those who flout traffic rules and seem not to see the value of human lives should face severe consequences. Road safety should be seen as a collective responsibility through stakeholder engagement where the government and the private sector work to minimize traffic.