In July this year, a regional conference on road safety held in Dar es Salaam was informed that Kenya had the highest rate of road accidents in East Africa with over 3,000 deaths compared to Tanzania and Uganda which have roughly 2,500 fatalities each.
In the same conference Kenya’s transport minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere is reported to have attributed the worrying statistics to illegal drivers and was quoted saying: “Most of the road accidents in Kenya occur because most drivers do not have valid driving licenses.”
Such a statement coming from a man at the helm of the transport in the country was to say the least perplexing.
I would not like to dwell on the inability and glaring lack of interest by Mr Mwakwere since most bloggers on this website have said enough about that office.
It’s clear that the man has failed simply because his predecessor John Michuki had just some few years ago shown us that it is more than just ‘illegal’ drivers.
Mr Michuki had taken charge of the ministry and brought sanity to the industry that was blamed from all manners of ill from road accidents, extortions and robberies. I will leave Mwakwere’s issue at that for now because he doesn’t have the humility and sensitivity his predecessor Mr Michuki had as far as management of that docket goes.
There have been many attempts to have a policy that governs road safety. In 2005 Kenya developed a National Road Safety Action Plan which among other things stipulated the creation of a lead agency that would coordinate synergies among nine sectors of the society including police, health, transport, urban, planning, education, hospitals, academia and auto clubs.
But the plan which would have helped this country to achieve reduced road accidents, free flow of traffic and pedestrians is gathering dust on some shelve because nobody is willing to coordinate the implementation the framework of the said action plan.
In other countries, road safety is a matter of paramount importance; if we put policies into action we would not have harrowing headlines telling us of Kenyans butchered on our roads due to speeding drivers, drunken ones or pure carelessness by both drivers and their passengers.
Apart from the policy makers, Kenyans have also a duty to observe traffic rules, and properly maintain our cars to reduce the number of road accidents.
Unworthy vehicles, drunk driving, speeding, among other problems highly contribute to accidents and if we observe proper rules governing road users, then we will be hearing less and less of this avoidable incidents.
On the other hand the government must also ensure proper road infrastructure is in place. A poor road network is a recipe for deadly accidents. It is high time the government allocates enough funds to modernise our road network and build highways with proper markings as practiced in other parts of the world.
By and large, there is need for collaboration between all stakeholders to make our roads safe.
We should as individuals take responsibility when on the road and take into consideration the welfare of other road users as much as we expect the government to style up.