(Charles Gichane) Mobile service provider Safaricom has partnered with the Media Owners Association (MOA) to form the National Road Safety Trust, which will spearhead a countrywide initiative to address the alarmingly high rates of road carnage.
The Trust brings together the government, private sector and civil society in a collaborative endeavour to address various factors that have contributed to increased incidences of traffic related injuries and fatalities.
During a stakeholder’s workshop to discuss a roadmap for the Trust, the campaign champions announced that they’re planning a formal launch later in the month and that they’ve requested President Mwai Kibaki to serve as the Trust’s patron.
A nine-member Board of Trustees comprising of representatives from Safaricom, the MOA, the police, the government, various road safety stakeholders and other private sector players will coordinate the activities of the Trust, with trustees holding office for a renewable two-year tenure.
An average of 30 road accidents are reported every day and official records show that an estimated 3,000 people die annually, which is grossly underestimated and focuses on deaths reported on site and not those that happen en route to or in the hospital.
Generally low levels of adherence to road traffic rules by Public Service Vehicles and the influx of “boda bodes” has worsened the situation, with the cause of most road accidents consisting of careless driving, drunk driving and visual impairment.
A study done by the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) reveals that 55 percent of road users have poor eyesight and should not be driving at night, while other causes are weather and road obstructions, poor roads, un-roadworthy vehicles and speeding.
The year to date has seen an unprecedented amount of road accidents and deaths, particularly on the new highways and there is limited capacity for first aid, and/or emergency response to road traffic accidents, particularly outside the main cities and towns.
Public hospitals are very strained in terms of resources to respond to road accidents and KNH CEO Richard Lesiyampe stated that the hospital spends Sh10 million a week to treat accident victims and in one recent weekend, KNH received 40 accident victims; 216 people over a three-week period.
The National Road Safety Trust objectives include advocating for sound road safety behaviour and initiating sustainable road safety and traffic campaigns, alongside advancing road safety educational programmes.
Safaricom CEO and Trust Co-Founder Bob Collymore noted that despite a rise in the number of road accidents, not enough has been done to address the problem.
“Road accidents claim ten people a day, yet we are not giving this problem the same focus as we give terror related activities that kill 30-40 annually,” he said.
“One of the most powerful legacies of this government is infrastructural development. Kenyans however lack the requisite education on how to deal with the same infrastructure,” said the MOA Vice Chairman Kiprono Kittony.
“Public education and awareness creation will therefore play a big role in mitigating the rising cases of road accidents particularly on the Thika Super Highway,” he added.
The MOA, a key partner in this initiative, have committed dedicated print and electronic coverage for the duration of the campaign as support for the Road Safety initiative.
Media Council Chairman Wachira Waruru added: “This is a matter of life and death and we therefore need to embrace this intervention in order to save lives. On behalf of the Media Owners Association, I would like to assure you that we will deploy all our resources in order to make this campaign a success.”