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Awasi bus crash: Spotlight recast on night travel

Friday October 4 2019

Awasi bus crash

The Eldoret Express bus collided with a truck in Awasi leaving 13 people dead the night of October 3, 2019. PHOTO | AUGUSTINE SANG | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JAMES KAHONGEH
By JAMES KAHONGEH
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The ghastly Friday Awasi night crash that claimed 13 lives has once again cast the spotlight on night travel.

Police say the head-on collision between an Eldoret Express bus and a truck happened as the bus driver attempted to avoid hitting a tractor ferrying cane.

The Awasi horror joins the growing list of night crashes that have claimed hundreds of lives in recent years.

HIGH FATALITIES

In October 2018, 56 people perished when a bus crashed at Fort Ternan in Kericho County, one of the highest fatalities in recent years.

Known as Home Boyz, the bus, operated by Western Crossroads Sacco, veered off the road while descending a steep slope before flying and landing into a 20-metre ditch.

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It turned out that this bus had no license to operate at night.

Last month, six people died and scores were hospitalised with serious injuries when the matatu collided with an oncoming truck at Nyakairu area near Naivasha at night.

In the crash on the busy Nairobi-Nakuru road, the truck driver had attempted to overtake other vehicles when he crashed into the PSV.

WEE HOURS

Two more lives were lost on the night of September 24 when a Dima Connections bus was involved in an accident at Mtito-Andei along the busy Nairobi-Mombasa highway.

According to Makueni County police boss Joseph Napeiyan, the crash happened after the truck driver attempted to join the highway without the necessary precaution.

And on Monday this week, four people died when a bus operated by Kenya Bus Service was involved in an accident on Kangundo Road.

Happening mostly in the wee hours of the day, these accidents have been linked to speeding, careless driving, overloading and poorly maintained and unroadworthy vehicles.

ENFORCEMENT

Lack of strict enforcement by traffic police, especially at night, has also been blamed for the scourge that has led to loss of tens of lives.

In December 2017, National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) imposed a ban on all night travel, effectively outlawing mass transport of passengers.

This triggered outrage from stakeholders in the transport sector, including bus owners and travellers. 

“I agree that most accidents occur due to fatigue but there needs to be engagement on time when such vehicles need to be stopped from ferrying passengers,’’ Samson Kimutai of Matatu Owners Association said at the time.

The ban would later be suspended temporarily after activist Okiya Omtatah sued NTSA.

The government later lifted the ban. 

STAKEHOLDERS

In 2013, High Court Judge Justice George Odunga had ruled that banning all night travel had infringed upon Kenyans’ rights to freedom of movement.

This was after then Transport Cabinet Secretary Eng Michael Kamau banned night travel to curb accidents.

The Awasi crash comes days after Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i ordered NTSA back on the roads to help the government in its renewed crackdown on unruly drivers.

This time, however, NTSA will provide only technical support to the police, who will enforce traffic rules.  

This directive came only 10 months after President Uhuru Kenyatta kicked the transport agency out of the roads following increased crashes and loss of lives.

Is the time ripe to institute firmer controls on night travel, including 24-hour road blocks and police checks?

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