MOTORING: Have you bumped into this pinnacle of road safety campaigns?

Saturday February 20 2016

Acting Coast traffic police boss Solomon

Acting Coast traffic police boss Solomon Njuguna inspects a matatu believed to have flouted sacco rules by having tinted windows and many colours on January 25, 2016 during a nationwide crackdown against matatus that disregard public transport regulations. Numerous vehicles were impounded during the crackdown at the Lights stage near PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By GAVIN BENNETT
More by this Author

Few people would doubt the wisdom of that famous rhyme:  “Tis a lesson you should heed, Try, try again. If at first you don’t succeed, Try, try again.”

But there’s a fine line between “refusing to quit” and “banging your head against a brick wall.” Determination is only an admirable quality if it is combined with imagination.

For example, if your car won’t start when you crank the engine, trying again and again won’t turn failure into success.  It will simply flatten the battery. That doesn’t solve the original

problem; it just adds another. Surely, when tackling any problem if the initial strategy does not work, by all means keep trying.

But fairly soon, and fairly often, try something different!

How obvious that “lesson” seems. Yet how seldom we “heed” it. For how many years, how many decades, have we been trying to solve the road safety problem with the same-old

set of policies and tools? 

The same-old driving lessons and tests. The same-old vehicle inspections. The same-old police roadblocks. The same-old fixation with speed limits. The same-old increases in fines.

The same-old defects and defaults in road signs and road markings.

It was that syndrome which the global “decade of action” on road safety — championed by no less an authority than the United Nations, financially backed by the World Bank, rolled

out by the FIA, and implemented by initiatives like “safe way, right way” — promised to change.

In Kenya,  this cascade and commitment spawned the special-focus project on selected sections of our Northern Corridor (Trans Africa Highway No 8, a part of which is also known

as the Nairobi-Naivasha Road).

With policy blessing, international expertise and private funding, for a good chunk of a decade no stretch of tarmac in Kenya has had more thorough and consistent safety research and attention.

On no section of highway have more vehicles been stopped more often by police checks.

Determination. Without doubt. But what about imagination? Well, this month we have a clear indication of how far official thinking has progressed.

At three points on this hitherto smooth road, the authorities have constructed speed bumps. Speed bumps that do not comply with the national standard. And speed bumps that are completely unmarked.

No doubt the people who decide these things have their reasons.

But however good those reasons might be, the empirical evidence is that the latest pinnacle of our road safety response — after years of unprecedented study and trial and diligent

effort of international, public and private sector doyens — is the installation of illegal, disruptive, unmarked and potentially dangerous and damaging lumps on our busiest arterial highway.

Perhaps they will be signposted and marked by the time this article is published. Perhaps other errors and omissions in markings that have escaped years of scrutiny will also be

rectified.

And perhaps, just perhaps, the single greatest cause of hazard on that road will also be noticed and acted on.

There are no silver bullets in the quest for road safety, but surely few sections can have such an intrinsically dangerous  (and obvious, and easily solvable!) problem as this one:  in

constantly heavy traffic streams with an imperative inter-city flow of between 80kph and 100kph,  an inordinate number of “white trucks” that grind along at between 10kph and 40kph.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see or grasp the consequences of that. 

[email protected]