The other day, I watched as Rachel Ruto, the Deputy President’s wife, led a group of religious leaders to pray at various spots along the accident-prone Salgaa-Sachangwan stretch, where tens of Kenyans have lost their lives this year alone.
We’re a Christian nation, so it only makes sense to call out to God in times of difficulty, and to give thanks to Him when good things happen in our lives. I agree that that perilous stretch needs prayers because not a month goes by before a fatal accident takes place there. It is as if it’s jinxed.
While I believe that prayers do indeed work, when it comes to the worrying rise of grisly road accidents in this country, we need much more practical interceding, one that will demand that those we have employed to keep our roads safe actually do their job (how many unmarked bumps dot our roads by the way?); one that will demand of us, the road users, to obey traffic rules, and one that will demand that those who break these rules face such steep consequences, that those looking in from the outside will quiver in their boots, so to speak, at the thought of what will happen to them should they break traffic rules.
Why, for instance, should those who cause an accident because they were drunk behind the wheel still retain their driving licenses? Whenever I board a matatu, I make the entire journey to my destination holding my intestines in a fist, as my tribesmen would say.
The matatus plying between where I live and the city centre exist to over-lap. There’s especially a stretch where they have made a habit of forming their own lane right next to a deep uncovered drain that goes on and on. Woe unto you if you happen to be seated on the left side of the matatu, especially next to the window. Your heart will stop for the several metres it takes to leave the drainage behind.
Once, a matatu I was in tipped so low (imagine motorcycle racers on a circuit navigating a corner) had I not been so frightened, I would have been able to reach out of the window and plant a couple of maize seeds as we lurched along.
HELP THEM GET AWAY
That is how close I was to the ground. Interestingly, I seemed to be the only one that was scared stiff in that vehicle. The man next to me was staring straight ahead, looking unperturbed, and even seemed a little bit irritated when I involuntarily squealed with fright.
This is another factor that needs interceding. We, the passengers in these moving coffins, just keep quiet (or yelp like me) when suicidal matatu and bus drivers break all the rules in the traffic book. As a result, we help them get away with murder.
I mean, how many times have you heard accident survivors narrate how the driver was speeding before the accident took place? Experience has also assured PSV drivers that even though they are arrested, the worst that could happen to them is an hour or two in a holding cell as their colleagues put together the negligible fine that, I feel, does not match the magnitude of their crime.
That day early this year when I found myself in a holding cell (I recounted that story here), among those in the cubicle were two matatu drivers, who had been charged with dangerous driving. They seem unperturbed, probably because this wasn’t their first time in a police cell and, therefore, knew the drill.
I even overheard one on phone, confidently tell whoever he was talking to that he would be out in time for the late afternoon “squad”. If I, a law breaker, can afford the fine I am slapped with, or if I don’t really feel the pinch of that fine, what will stop me from breaking the same law again?
We need much more than prayers to tackle this mounting recklessness and negligence that is robbing us of our loved ones daily.