NTSA and Police must be tough with all road users
By Charlton Murithi, former Traffic Commandant
This article by former traffic Commandant Charlton Murithi two years ago is as true and relevant as it was in 2014 when he penned it. It is no wonder he did not last long at the helm of multi-billion-shilling human slaughter on Kenyan highways. Read on …
In a year, the country loses more than 3,000 people from traffic accidents. Most of these are between 15 and 44 years, the most productive age group. The cost of these accidents to our economy is enormous. It has been estimated that Kenya loses in excess of Ksh4.5 billion, exclusive of the actual loss of life, as a result of road accidents
When the National Transport and Safety Authority and the Traffic Police department began strict enforcement of the 50kph speed limit in urban areas, motorists went up in arms to protest the regulation.
This was partly due to a lack of understanding of the Highway Code regarding speed limits within built-up areas on entering the city/towns and also the genesis of these regulations.
Every day, pedestrians are at risk of death, injury and disability due to speeding motorists. This is exacerbated by the fact that the majority of pedestrians do not cross the road at designated points, and also the lack of pedestrian facilities on our roads.
An International Road Assessment Programme survey found that 95 per cent of the roads in Nairobi recorded high pedestrian flows, yet only 20 per cent had footpaths. Pedestrians fight for space with motorists who at times drive on pavements during jams.
In Kenya’s urban areas, pedestrians account for more than 80 per cent of road accidents, and countrywide, contribute to 47 per cent of all road crash fatalities.
In a year, the country loses more than 3,000 people from traffic accidents. Most of these are between 15 and 44 years, the most productive age group. Stories of innocent pedestrian dying are not strange in the city. The tragedy, therefore, cannot be ignored.
The cost of these accidents to our economy is enormous. It has been estimated that Kenya loses in excess of Sh4.5 billion, exclusive of the actual loss of life, as a result of road accidents.
This calls for urgent measures to curb the menace. One way to reduce these accidents is by introducing speed limits in urban areas.
In 2011, the World Health Organisation declared 2011-2020 the decade of action for road safety with a particular focus on pedestrians.
As part of the measures to reduce pedestrian accidents, the WHO made a series of recommendations, including changing driver behaviour through legislating and enforcing new and existing laws that limit speed to 50kph on urban roads.
This can be further reduced where appropriate. For example, the speed limits could be capped at 30kph around schools.
According to the WHO, a pedestrian has 90 per cent chance of surviving a car crash at 30kph or below, but less than a 50 per cent chance of surviving impacts at 45kph or above. That tells you that the 50kph we are enforcing is still high.
Traffic laws and regulations are made after painstaking observations of certain behaviour of vehicles along certain roads, road users and taking statistics among other parameters. They take years of observation by the Traffic Department and scholars to make relevant legislation.
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Addressing the issue of traffic accidents and congestion is therefore a multi-pronged approach. Each concerned government agency, as well as the public, must play their role.
I take note of the work being done by the private sector through the National Road Safety Trust of which I am also a trustee. In addition to donating 11 speed cameras to the traffic police, which have enabled us to enforce speed limits, the Trust is also involved in aggressively creating awareness on road safety.
The National Road Safety Trust is an initiative of Safaricom and Media Owners Association among other corporate organisations, working in partnership with the NTSA and the Traffic Police Department, in areas of awareness and education on road safety.
I urge all road users to stop viewing the measures being taken as punishment but rather as actions that are geared towards making walking safer.
All said and done, a Nation that neglects human life is doomed. The matatu industry in Kenya has acquired gross indiscipline over the years to the extent that some call it Matatu culture. Indeed loud music and gory graffiti on matatus is regarded as the in thing by the youth and some kind of modern art and highway entertainment.
Time has come to relook at the industry discipline and national moral values. Graffiti and loud music are not for public transport service in any decent industry or country. The Kenya government must decide whether it wants a rotten generation of matatu industry youth or serious young people looking forward to a decent orderly life in the future. Self-regulation does not appear to be in the matatu industry dictionary and the law must take its rightful course.
The law must also apply in full force indiscriminately when it comes to road users. PSVs, government and private vehicles must operate within the Highway Code. Cyclists and pedestrians must obey the traffic rules. Red light means stop whether a driver a cyclist or a pedestrian. That must be observed by Traffic Police, County Traffic marshalers and pedestrians at all times.
Above all corruption within the industry must be curbed. The NTSA appears to the latest branch of the notorious police force unforgiving graft. The road safety body has become a corruption super highway, which matatu Saccos and staff do care about because freedom to behave as they wish can be paid for even when they kill. NTSA must reform or be reformed to cut down the road carnage whose annual number exceeds 10,000 but had been annually cooked at 3,000 deaths.
Matatu and transport industry in general is a multi-lane corruption super highway that raises hundreds of millions of shillings every day that is shared between and among the police at all ranks, mungiki and politicians – some of whom raise cash to cover up highway and other crimes. Money blinds traffic officers, their bosses and judicial officials when it comes many serious traffic offenses on Kenyan roads. Of late there are claims that NTSA staff are not innocent bystanders.
Two Traffic Commandants were removed when it became impossible to bribe them and be used as the conduit for bribes to the higher ranks. One was removed after he refused to host a delegation of PSV operators through which millions are used to buy protection from prosecution for Highway Code violations. The other was too anxious to stick to the law thereby disrupting the free flow of bribes into MPesa and bank accounts of Traffic police and other regulators reluctant to enforce the law.