Kenya’s Road to Change: Averting the fatal accident crisis

Wangari Njoroge

A crisis of deaths caused by reckless driving and bad roads is being averted as the issue has been labeled a menace and a pandemic in the country.

According to the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) in Kenya, road accidents across the country have claimed 563 lives since the year started and the statistics are reported to be an increase compared to deaths recorded during the same period in 2023 which stood at 537.

Tale of hope and despair

Early this year, after 5 hours’ errand in Kisumu City, Otieno embarked on a journey, unaware of the harrowing ordeal awaiting him. With 14 passengers on board, the Public Service Vehicle embarked on its journey.

Hours later, he would find himself at the Aga Khan Hospital in Kisumu.

“Despite our desperate pleas for moderation of speed, the driver remained at over the limit speeds to reach HomaBay Town by 7 pm,” said Otieno as he recalled the tragic day.

Otieno, after an almost fatal incident vowed to dedicate his life to create awareness on road safety and help save lives.

Jane Wangui, a young mother of two, also recalls the horror of the crash that robbed her of her husband and left her children fatherless.

“One moment we were laughing and chatting in the car, the next, everything went dark. I woke up in the hospital to the news that my husband didn’t make it,” Wangui expalined.

Peter Onyango, a commuter who narrowly escaped death when his matatu collided with a truck, struggles to sleep at night, plagued by visions of the wreckage and the screams of his fellow passengers.

“I can’t believe I made it out alive. But I’ll never forget the faces of those who didn’t,” Onyango narrates.

Nonetheless, John Otieno, a survivor has taken an initiative to sensitize and create awareness in the country so as to reduce deaths as a result of drunk driving, over speeding and overtaking among other wrongs.

One voice at a time

After facing the life-changing moment in a road accident, Otieno decided to take on a big mission of sensitizing the masses on road safety.

He visits schools and communities in Kisumu where he talks about his accident and why driving safely matters in a bid to reduce injuries and deaths on the roads.

“My mission is tro make everyone understand that it is important to drive carefully and more importantly important to speak out when the driver is being reckless,” he said in the interview.

His humanitarian work is gaining recognition by public workers and the county governments who are joining in to help him fight this menace.

“I already have a group of 12 individuals and together we go to public spaces, hold campaigns, distribute flyers all in an effort to educate the public on road safety,” he added.

He calls upon leaders associated with road safety and transport to take responsibility so as to avoid road mortalities

Call for action

 In recent months, the transport sector has been plagued by an alarming and troubling surge in road accidents, leaving a trail of shattered lives and broken dreams.

Roman Waema, Chairman Kenya Truck Drivers Association (KTDA), expresses grave concern over the recent surge in road accidents gripping the nation.

National Transport and Safety Association (NTSA) officials carry posters to sensitize drivers on good road use and safe driving.jpg

According to Waema, the current state of road safety is alarming, and the industry cannot continue to lose lives at such a staggering rate.

“We are calling for concerted efforts from all stakeholders, including the government, law enforcement agencies, and drivers themselves. We plead with government to prioritize road safety and allocate resources towards improving infrastructure, enforcing regulations, and implementing driver education programs,” Waema said in concern with the battle to end death tolls on the Kenyan roads.

He says KTDA is committed to promoting responsible driving practices among its members. The association, according to Waema, is advocating for increased awareness about the importance of adhering to traffic laws, prioritizing safety over speed, and adopting defensive driving techniques. 

Advocating for drivers’ safety

During the recent launch of the ‘Eyes on the Road’, Kenya Coaches Industry (KCI) and Isuzu EA pointed to a deadly cocktail of factors responsible for the road carnage.

Narain Sokhi, KCI Managing Director, said despite the mounting death toll, the root causes of these tragedies remain elusive. He regrets that every day, headlines scream of lives lost and families torn apart by the ruthless grasp of road accidents.

“Is it reckless driving? Poor road conditions? Or just a systematic failure in our transport infrastructure?” Sokhi poses. 

As the calendar flipped to a new year, hopes were high for safer roads and fewer tragedies. Painfully enough, reality has been far grimmer. Instead of progress, there has been regression, with an alarming increase in road accidents casting a dark shadow over the nation’s highways.

Rita Kavashe, Isuzu managing director, believes time has come for the government to focus on the mental health of the drivers.

“With some drivers struggling to meet tight schedules, others overworked, and vehicles operating beyond their limits due to lax enforcement of safety rules, the transport sector is set for disaster,” said Kavashe.

In a bid to tackle the rising tide of road accidents, the government has no choice but to reign on rogue drivers, by directing traffic officers to enforce traffic rules. Experts believe having a paradigm shift in driver assessment and training is key in taming the carnage.

“The government must provide a revolutionary approach to the training of drivers. There is need for mandatory eye assessments. Through this, drivers will undergo comprehensive eye check ups to gauge their visual acuity, and identify any potential issues,” Kavashe advises.

She adds that the medical check up should not only focus on diagnosing problems, but also empowering drivers with the knowledge they need to stay safe on the road.

Government’s response

In the face of this statistics, the government has unveiled a comprehensive strategy to tackle the epidemic.

“We are ramping up efforts to ensure that drivers adhere to speed limits, avoid reckless behavior, and prioritize the safety of all road users,” says Murkomen, CS Transport.

He added that the government is investing in infrastructure upgrades aimed at enhancing road safety. According to the CS, the upgrades includes the construction of new highways, installation of road signage, and maintenance of existing roads to prevent accidents caused by poor road conditions.

As the nation struggles with the rising cases of road accidents, the appeal of road users rings loud and clear: enough is enough. Their voices, united in grief and determination, demand action to end the cycle of suffering on our roads.

It is a call that cannot be ignored, and it is up to all of us – government, drivers, and citizens – to heed it and work together towards safer roads for everyone.

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