"If you think you can endanger the lives of passengers and imagine you can get away with it, think again" is the message that came out loudly when the picture of a bus on the railway line and a video of a matatu being driven on the wrong side of the road went viral on social media. The revulsion and uproar by the public towards such rogue drivers is a clear indication that road users no longer remain silent when it comes to their safety on the roads.
The management of road safety is currently one of the development challenges that Kenya is struggling to address. About 3,000 lives are lost annually in road traffic crashes, while 30,000 people end up partially or permanently maimed. The "Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015" by the World Health Organization shows that road traffic injuries remain the leading cause of death among those aged between 15 and 29, claiming 1.25 million lives globally every year.
According to the report, 75 per cent is a result of reckless driving. In Kenya, statistics show that since January, 89 per cent of the crashes have been as a result of human error. These include excessive speed, drink driving, crossing at undesignated points and walking under the influence of alcohol. This trend can come to an end, with road users changing their behaviour.
The human suffering caused by road crashes is huge – for every victim, there are family members, friends, and communities, which must cope with the physical, psychological and economic consequences of the death, injury or disability of a loved one. Crash survivors and their families must cope with the painful and often long-term consequences of injury, disability and rehabilitation. Road traffic crashes significantly strain the health provisions. Public participation in matters of road safety is vital in transport management because by working together, safety becomes a shared responsibility. While the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) is doing its part to ensure our roads are safe, the public must get involved in dealing with this vice.
Technology plays a crucial role in enhancing road safety and it is for that reason that the NTSA developed a user-friendly mobile application that the public can use to report incidents on our roads. Through the NTSA app, roads users have now been empowered to directly communicate with the authority and report speeding, reckless driving, bribery and even harassment while using public vehicles. The public can also use it to verify the status of driving licences and ask questions on how to access NTSA services. Since it was rolled out three months ago, we have received over 30,000 cases from across the country. The reports range from mishandling of passengers, overcharging by PSV, excess passengers, reckless driving, illegal PSVs, speeding, overlapping, and obstruction, to drivers without valid licences. To ensure the authenticity and accuracy of the information we receive, the app has an image upload feature that allows road users to submit pictures of the incident. With this we have managed to get the details of the vehicles and taken necessary action.
Despite it being in use for a very short time, the app has resulted in behavioural change among some motorists. Drivers are now aware their actions could easily be reported to NTSA by anyone on the road. This joint collaboration with the public will eventually bear more fruit and we will have safer roads. So long as there is no respect for the rule of law of the roads, they will remain an unsafe place. It is important for all road users to be aware of the dangers of reckless driving.
Dido Guyatu is deputy director of communications, National Transport and Safety Authority.