Highway of death: Who will stop the increasing accidents on Thika Road?
Posted Saturday, April 28 2012 at 22:30
- Police estimate that since January 1, more than 70 people have died on Thika Road, and another 142 on other Nairobi roads.
- The statistics do not include those who succumb to injuries in hospitals, which would make the toll much higher.
- The new highway was designed to open up transport into Nairobi from the satellite municipalities of Thika and Kiambu and surrounding settlements.
- How many more lives must be lost on the killer highway before somebody finds a solution to the carnage?
Banker Naftali Etabale left Vihiga on Thursday to visit his family in Ngoingwa estate in Thika.
All was well for the hundreds of kilometres he travelled until he was just about 20 kilometres from home. As fate would have it, the banker did not get to see his family.
The matatu he was travelling in collided with a saloon car. The passengers, including Mr Etabale, alighted and requested a fare refund so they could board another matatu to complete their journey.
As they waited, a truck ran into the passengers. Mr Etabale and three other passengers died instantly.
The four joined a growing list of pedestrians, motorists, motorcycle riders and passengers who have fallen victim to the new highway, the latest and longest black spot in the country.
Police estimate that since January 1, more than 70 people have died on Thika Road, and another 142 on other Nairobi roads.
The statistics do not include those who succumb to injuries in hospitals, which would make the toll much higher.
The new highway was designed to open up transport into Nairobi from the satellite municipalities of Thika and Kiambu and surrounding settlements.
Along the road are major institutions including, ironically, the Traffic Police headquarters. Yet this is one highway where public service vehicle drivers break the 80kph speed limit with abandon.
A spot check by the Sunday Nation found matatus picking and dropping passengers on the expressway with other vehicles zooming past instead of pulling off to the stages and side-roads provided for that purpose.
Thika Road is also endowed with such major institutions such as the Survey Field headquarters, the Kenya School of Monetary Studies, General Service Unit headquarters, Kenya Breweries headquarters, the Safari Park Hotel, United States International University and residential estates.
In addition, it also hosts institutions such as Kenyatta University and satellite towns like Githurai and Ruiru, making it Kenya’s busiest highway.
The construction has opened up the possibility of higher speeds but footbridges are yet to be completed.
Although it is the first highway of its kind in Kenya, no campaign has been done to educate motorists and pedestrians about the care and caution that needs to be exercised to avoid the string of tragedies witnessed almost on a daily basis.
Going by police figures, Thika Road claims about two people every 24 hours. Another 10 are either maimed or live with the psychological scars of an accident ordeal each day.
“This superhighway is a killer. The number of people I see knocked down on a daily basis cannot fit the fingers on one hand,” says Kinuthia Mburu.
His source of income is a motorcycle that he rides along the highway for close to 18 hours a day, ferrying passengers and goods. “Some die, most are injured. Every day.”
He has lost personal friends and seen strangers breathe their last. He tries to explain away the deaths as a consequence of development.