As the sad tale of road carnage in Kenya continues unabated, Kenyans are lost on who should really take the blame for the many deaths on our roads.
Sadly, it seems majority of casualties in these accidents are pedestrians, according to statistics from the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA).
Due to the many accidents witnessed across the country, with a couple of crashes occurring on some road points, Kenyans and authorities have resorted to naming some of these points ‘black spots,’ referring to the frequency of fatal accidents here.
Most recent statistics show that a whopping 2,318 people have lost their lives in the last six months alone due to road accidents, majority of whom are pedestrians.
As authorities release a list of perceived accident black spots in the country, the begging question is ‘who is really responsible for causing these accidents and how can they be reined in?’
If there is an economic sector in this country that has attracted much interest and given much attention, it is the public commuter and general transport sector.
With critical observation, one would realize a number of agencies and formations bestowed with almost overlapping mandates in streamlining public transport and putting measures to prevent road accidents, exist in Kenya.
The Traffic Police, for instance, have been accused of lethargy and complicity in the build-up to road accidents but have always denied responsibility.
Every Kenyan can attest to the fact that it is a common sight on our roads to see Traffic police officers flagging down vehicles, taking bribes from operators, especially public service vehicles (PSVs) in broad daylight, and then allowing them to continue with their journeys notwithstanding their state of roadworthiness.
Even if there were a blatant traffic offense like overloading, overlapping or overspeeding, they just part with just one or a few hundreds to continue with the safari.
Another entity is the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), established in 2012 through an Act of Parliament with the objective of harmonizing the operations of the key road transport departments and help in effectively managing the road transport sub-sector and minimizing loss of lives through road crashes.
But has it lived up to its vision of having an efficient, reliable and safe road transport in Kenya? Perhaps what’s catchier and mouthful is its mission statement: To continuously improve on road safety for all users through planning, managing and regulating the road transport system.
What NTSA does in cases of fatal accidents claiming many lives is to revoke the operating licenses of the Sacco the accident vehicle belongs to. This has proven to be only a knee-jerk reaction because the Sacco, after moving up and down to rectify a few things, is allowed back on the road.
Then there are the crucial road construction and maintenance agencies—the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA), Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) and Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA).
In this case, KeNHA which is responsible for the development, rehabilitation, management and maintenance of all national trunk roads comprising of Class S, A, and B roads, has a huge role in designing and marking roads for efficient use by motorists. Headquartered in Nairobi, KeNHA has ten regional offices and three corridor management offices, and is also in charge of all weigh bridge installations.
It therefore follows that all the aforementioned statutory bodies need to work hand in hand to ensure safe usage of our roads by motorists and pedestrians alike, and that the main national interconnectivity roads are well done, maintained and traffic movement monitored to ensure no misuse.
Drivers are also a critical component of road safety. Authorities have been quick to lay the blame on the drivers, citing human error and fatigue. While it could be true, the other players cannot be completely off the hook as they are supposed to be vigilant and facilitate movement and provide guidance to drivers. Motor bike riders have also borne the flack for recklessness lack of value for human life.
Another lot that will not escape mention in road transport are the vehicle owners. They are critical in instilling discipline in their drivers and their assistants whenever they are on the road by ensuring they are in good shape, well facilitated by required documents and well-motivated to avoid conflict with the law and complete their journeys safely.
Reached for comment, a representative of Matatu Owners Association (MOA) said they would get back, only to go quiet up to the time of going to press.
Assistant Inspector General of Police Mary Omari, who doubles up as the Traffic Commandant, did not answer our calls nor return text messages.