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Kenya crawls out of bloodstained 2017 after high road fatalities

More than 3000 people are killed in road accidents in Kenya annually.

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 31- Just hours to 2018, Kenya appeared to crawl out of the bloodstained 2017 which has been marked with highest number of fatal road accidents across the country.

The East African country is ranked among countries with the worst road safety records globally based on a 2015 World Health Organisation (WHO) report titled the Global Status on Road Safety.

The report shows that Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda with respectively 29.1, 32.9 and 32.1 deaths per 100,000 people, are amongst the worst 10 performers on road fatalities in the continent. It is among the worst 20 in the world, with Uganda placed better 27.4.

The latest worst accident in Kenya occurred on Sunday morning when 36 people died during a passenger bus head-on collision with a truck at Migaa on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway, just 10 kilometers from the Salgaa black spot.

Many more accidents have occurred at this particular stretch since mid December when most people started travelling upcountry for festivities.

Police have placed the death toll from accidents at this particular stretch at more than 100 since December 20.

“We lost 30 people on the spot today (Sunday) and six others have succumbed to injuries,” Zero Arama, the Rift valley Traffic Police chief told journalists, and warned drivers to be “cautious and observe traffic regulations to avoid more fatalities.”

30 people died on the spot while 6 succumbed to their injuries after the Sunday morning accident involving a bus and a truck.

While available statistics show that up to 3000 people die annually from road accidents in Kenya, this year’s toll is likely to be even higher due to the increased number of accidents recorded since June.

WHO differs with the country’s official statistics and instead places the annual death toll at an average of 12,000, with many accidents blamed on faulty vehicles and minimal or total lack of enforcement by authorities coupled with bribery.

The report shows that no African country except South Africa meets any of the UN’s seven main vehicle safety standards.

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Police Headquarters is yet to release the final accidents toll for 2017 which is expected at the beginning of the New Year.

By December 15, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) revealed that 150 lives had been lost for the two weeks, a number that has stretched further.

Other notable accidents this year is the one that claimed the live of Nyeri Governor Wahome Gakuru on the Nyeri-Karatina road on November 6.

In December last year, more than 40 people died when an out of control fuel tanker ploughed into vehicles and then exploded in Naivasha.

-The Salgaa black spot-

Myths have surrounded the Salgaa black spot along Nakuru-Eldoret highway on what could be the cause of what seems to be unending road accidents.

It’s a ‘bloodthirsty’ spot, where hundreds of lives have been lost; breadwinners killed, entire families wiped…but despite some kneejerk measures to restore order, the gains remain indiscernible.

Two weeks ago, more than 10 people died in a road accident on the same stretch, just days after a prominent Kericho musician perished there with his crew of six.

It is on the same stretch at Sachangwan where more than 100 people were killed in 2009 while siphoning fuel when a petrol tanker overturned and went up in flames.

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Kenya has other black spots on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway, Thika-Garissa, Nairobi-Nyeri highway and the Makutano-Meru road.

This bus operates the Githurai route in Nairobi but had been licenced to ferry passengers to Mwingi when the accident occurred. NTSA has since revoked the short-term licence.

Six people were killed near Matuu when a bus overturned.

On Friday night, three bishops were killed when their vehicle collided head-on with another near Mwea.

The Bishops from the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA) died on the spot during the accident that occurred in Wamumu area on the Embu-Mwea road. Two drivers sustained serious injuries.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has weighed in on the matter, warning drivers to observe traffic regulations, in his Jamhuri Day address when he ordered police not to abdicate their traffic enforcement duty.

National Police chief Joseph Boinnet subsequently ordered the traffic department to strictly enforce the law, but accidents are still on the rise despite warnings from higher echelons.

-What NTSA has said-

The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has since attributed the crashes to speeding, reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol and other substances.

An NTSA official subjects a driver to an Alcoblow test on Mombasa road during a recent operation.

The authority however, said it is working with the Kenya National Highways Authority (KENHA) to reverse the worrying trend, by installing additional humps, rumble strips including road marking and signage.

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