BY MARY KIMONYE
Approximately 1.24 million people die every year on the world’s roads, and another 20 to 50 million sustain non-fatal injuries as a result of road traffic crashes.
These injuries and deaths have an immeasurable impact on the families affected, whose lives are often changed irrevocably by these tragedies and on the communities in which these people lived and worked.
Currently, Kenya ranks among countries with the highest rate of road traffic crashes globally with an average of 3,000. Statistics from the traffic department and National Transport and Safety Authority show that between January 2013 and November 2013 some 2,683 lives had been lost and 5,485 seriously injured on road accidents.
Challenges currently experienced in the road transport subsector according to the National Transport and Safety Authority, include lack of automation leading to loss of revenue, proliferation of fake documents, disregard of traffic laws and inefficiency in service delivery. The operation of non-motorised and intermediate means of transport (boda boda) still remain a big challenge. Most of Kenya’s hospitals currently have wards specifically set aside for victims of accidents caused by motorcycle riders.
This is the grim reality, which is reversible if only all citizens played their role in making our roads safe. Indeed quoting Cabinet Secretary in charge of Transport and Infrastructure Eng Michael Kamau, “Poor road safety standards are due to our collective irresponsibility, collective greed, collective impunity, collective ignorance, collective politicization of road safety matters, and lack of self-respect, silo mentality and indiscipline.” This scenario has portrayed our roads as death machines. It has dented our nations’ image and standing as a brand.
Blame games will not reduce the number of deaths on our roads. Concerted effort will make our roads safer for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. The government is championing this, through development of polices and strengthening road safety legislation. Just last week, the National Transport and Safety Authority appointed a new Director General will oversee the implementation of the ongoing major legislative, operational and enforcement initiatives aimed at improving road safety.
The Government’s investment in financial and human resources in the enforcement of these laws is an essential component for success. Raising public awareness is also an important strategy in increasing understanding of and support for legislative and enforcement measures.
Road safety mechanisms can only work best in partnership with the Transport Ministry, Traffic Police department, the Judiciary, motor vehicle owners, Matatu Owners Association, other stakeholders and the main player; the citizens. Since the beginning of the year, NTSA in collaboration with Traffic Police and the Judiciary has realised significant achievements, which has led to reduction in the number of road traffic accidents across the country.
If citizens embraced national values, road accidents would be a thing of the past. Respect for the rule of law is one of the values. If motorists and pedestrians obeyed traffic laws, there would be order on our roads and minimal road accidents. Wearing safety belts while driving at all times, saves lives. Speed kills. Motorists who drive at high speeds disrespect human dignity and rights, another national value. So do boda boda riders who ride motorbikes without helmets.
The same goes for those who tamper with speed governors, drive unroadworthy motor vehicles, use of mobile phones while driving and those who drive when drunk. Drinking and driving increases the risk of being involved in a crash, as well as the severity of resulting injuries.
It is important to remember that driving starts to be impaired at very low levels of alcohol consumption, with the risk of crash involvement growing rapidly as consumption increases. Similarly, those who drive vehicles without insurance policies and valid and appropriate driving licenses lack respect for human dignity.
Commuters’ should never board a motor vehicle that is full. Neither should they board a car that is unroadworthy. It’s their duty to report drivers who go against road rules to the police.
Practicing integrity, another national value would save lives. Citizens, who bribe traffic police, contribute to road carnage. Police officers who take bribes are guilty of corruption. The police must enforce road safety rules.
Road traffic injuries are estimated to be the eighth leading cause of death globally. They are the leading cause of death for young people aged 15-29 years, and as a result take a heavy toll on those entering their most productive years. Economically disadvantaged families are hardest hit by both direct medical costs and indirect costs such as lost wages that result from these injuries. At the national level, road traffic injuries result in considerable financial costs.
Nonetheless, many countries have within a relatively short timeframe, implemented and enforced effective legislation to reduce speeding and drink-driving, and increase use of motorcycle helmets and safety belts. Sustaining high levels of enforcement and maintaining a high perception of enforcement among the public are essential to the success of such legislative measures.
In addition, evidence from many countries shows that dramatic successes in preventing road traffic accidents can be achieved through concerted efforts. A number of countries, such as Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom have achieved steady declines in road traffic death rates through coordinated, multi-sectoral responses to the problem, which involve citizen participation and adherence to laws. Citizens are the major players in road safety. What role are you playing?
(Mary Kimonye, MBS is the Chief Executive Officer, Brand Kenya Board)