Pedestrians make up the highest number of people who die from road accidents, according to the latest report by the National Transport and Safety Authority.
Of the 3,000 deaths reported each year, pedestrians account for 1,344.
According to Mr Eric Kiniti, the corporate relations director for Kenya Breweries Limited and a member of the Safe Way Right Way board, the design of major highways is partly to blame for the high number of pedestrian deaths.
“Pedestrians die because they look for the most convenient way to cross a road,” he said in an interview with the Nation. As such, many will choose to dash across an eight-lane highway rather than walk a kilometre to the nearest footbridge.
This behaviour partly explains why the Mombasa-Malaba road — also known as the northern corridor — accounts for the highest number of pedestrian deaths, with many of the cases being reported in Nairobi.
North Airport Road in Nairobi has one of the highest death rates for pedestrians.
This is because, busy roads, such as Uhuru Highway and Thika Road, do not have enough footbridges. However, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) on Thursday said it was addressing this problem by recommending that more be built especially in areas prone to accidents.
“The number of bridges on Thika Road need to be increased to 10,” Mr Kiniti said.
He also recommended that drivers and pedestrians who are involved in road accidents be tested for alcohol use.
At present, breathalyser tests are conducted randomly, mainly in towns at night, though statistics indicate that most accidents occur on Saturdays and Sundays, usually on highways.
“Those are the people we should be following up on because they have already caused an accident,” said Mr Kiniti, faulting the way the tests are conducted.
As a rule, breathalyser tests are static and all drivers using a particular road are tested.
“One of the deficiencies of that system is that it is not meant to check erratic driving.
"Even the driver who is not drunk is getting inconvenienced,” Mr Kiniti said.
In developed economies, he said, breathalyser tests are used only on drivers who have committed traffic offences.
However, he also lamented the low number of convictions for drunk-driving offenders.
Besides the design of major highways and pedestrian behaviour, speeding, the condition of a vehicle and inappropriate road use have also been blamed for accidents in black spots such as Salgaa, where vehicles often ram into others parked by the roadside.
To address this, the NTSA has recommended that appropriate parking areas be built to discourage truck drivers from parking by the roadsides.
According to Mr Kiniti, there is a big gap in driver training and testing, largely because there is no standardised curriculum for commercial driving schools and the tests administered on new drivers are inadequate.
He also called for a major change in the public transport system, urging the Nairobi County government to invest more in light trains to reduce over-reliance on private vehicles which, according to the NTSA, cause the highest number of accidents at 35 per cent. Public service vehicles contribute another 20 per cent.
Nairobi was on Thursday declared an outlier county because it has the highest number of accidents, caused mainly by the large number of cars on its roads, the high population density and better roads.
“The tipping point is changing behaviour,” Mr Kiniti said, and called for stricter policing of traffic offences.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Merab