Speed thrills and yes, speed kills

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BY BOB COLLYMORE

There is a common saying that goes: The living close the eyes of the dead, but the dead open the eyes of the living. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the 41 people those who lost their lives in last week’s bus accident.

In Kenya, the often stated statistic is that over 3,000 people die due to road traffic accidents. However thousands more die at home, in hospital and en0route to hospital or are maimed for life. At this rate, in the next few years, road traffic accidents will claim as many lives as malaria, HIV and AIDS and TB. Today, the average annual cost of road crashes to Kenya’s economy is above Sh14 billion or about 5 percent of our GDP. But these are just numbers. Behind these numbers lie pain, tragedy and missed opportunities.

Excessive speed is the leading contributor to road traffic accidents in Kenya. The Traffic Police Department advises that if we simply reduce the speed at which we drive, we will drive the likelihood and severity of an accident. Reducing the severity of a crash means less severity of injuries. It means a life saved, not lost. But instead we sometimes revel at how fast friends drive from Nairobi to Eldoret, or how fast one can drive their car on our newly constructed super highways. How many of us see speeding as a thrill or as the solution for making up for a poorly planned day? How many of us pay attention to the speed limit signs on our roads?

Towards the end of last year, Safaricom, along with the Media Owners Association founded the National Road Safety Trust – which has representation from the Traffic Department, EABL, General Motors, Total, Direct Line Assurance, Invesco Assurance and Magnate Ventures, with the purpose of galvanizing support for a coordinated private sector response towards road safety. The Trust has developed a three year programme which will contribute towards public sector efforts at addressing road safety.

In April this year, the Trust and other corporate partners donated 10 speed cameras to the Traffic Department. Speed cameras have proven to be an effect deterrent to speeding in places such as the Nairobi-Naivasha-Nakuru stretch.

Since the speed cameras were mounted, in a period of four months, over 1,500 drivers have been apprehended for speeding and over Sh7 million has been collected in fines, and has been passed over to the Judiciary.

These speed cameras are equipped with video recording capabilities which lends transparency to arrests and prosecution. Indeed traffic police report that there is much less confrontation and when one is arrested for speeding. There are now 16 speed cameras all over the country, but this is a far cry from the 200 cameras required to effectively curb over speeding in the country.

The National Road Safety Trust calls upon Kenyans not to wait for more speed cameras to be deployed countrywide before they make the decision not to over speed. We should take responsibility for our lives and the lives of passengers and pedestrians and make the conscious decision to drive responsibly. In just four months, we can see that these speed monitoring systems are working. But even with the charges and the fines, we can easily fall back to our old habits.

It is important that we all realize that road safety is everybody’s business. We should all play a role in curbing road carnage. The police need to be stringent in their enforcement strategies. Perpetrators need to be punished, and not too lightly. But the end game stops with the individual.

Life is precious. To lose so many lives on the road mostly over the thrill or pressure of speed is needless. It is often said that accidents do not happen by accident. Accidents are caused by carelessness. It’s important for us and our loved ones to know that when we leave our homes or offices tonight, we will arrive at our destination alive. Speed may thrill, but speed kills.

(Collymore is the CEO of Safaricom and is a Founder Trustee of the National Road Safety Trust)

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