One accident, followed by a myriad assurances to stop them. Then another accident, and a repeat of the process.
This has become the story of Kenya — a country which has lost 8,000 people in the last three years alone in road crashes.
A staggering 91 per cent of the crashes are attributed to human related factors like speeding, reckless driving, dangerous overtaking and drunk driving.
At 29 per 100,000 people, Kenya is among the countries with the highest number of road crashes globally.
Road carnage claimed 2,969 people in 2016, 2,919 in 2017 and 2,300 people have already died on the road between January 1 and October 3 this year.
Worrying, though, is that the number of accidents and casualties keep on increasing despite a myriad interventions by government and other stakeholders to stem the deadly tide which has seen pedestrians, motor vehicle passengers and drivers bear the brunt of the menace.
Over the years, the government has put in place various measures aimed at regulating the road transport sub-sector and enhancing safety on roads.
And with yesterday’s horror accident at Fort Ternan on the Kericho-Muhoroni road, in which 55 people died, industry players yesterday said the grim statistics might continue if the government does not do more than talk.
Matatu Welfare Association chairman Dickson Mbugua said the greatest responsibility for the accidents should be with Sacco management and law enforcers who have disregarded various laws put in place to curb fatalities.
Mr Mbugua said Sacco managements have failed to put in place a fleet management system for vehicles going outside Nairobi besides having no route training for their drivers to familiarise them with different routes in terms of terrain, black spots and road bumps.
On law enforcers, he said they have failed to mount proper surveillance to ensure vehicles comply with the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) rules, in the process giving Saccos the leeway to operate with recklessness in exchange for money.
“Prevention of accidents is a collective responsibility for all road users but Saccos have ignored putting in place stringent management of their fleets and personnel to address glaring shortcomings before they turn into fatalities,” said Mr Mbugua.
Mr Mbugua spoke as NTSA director-general Francis Meja confirmed that the ill-fated Home Boyz bus, which plunged into farmlands in a valley in Kericho, did not have a licence to operate at night.
“It is true that the bus was registered under the Western Cross Express Company Ltd. The bus was, however, not licensed to travel at that time of the night when the accident occurred,” Mr Meja said.
Recently, NTSA rolled out the new smart driving licence with a biometric system to facilitate capturing of driver details with the aim of profiling them to help the authority and any other interested institutions to profile drivers based on their behaviour and driving history.
It was envisaged that the smart driving licence would go a long way in improving road safety as rogue drivers would be punished while good drivers would be rewarded.
Even a new curriculum, covering both theoretical learning and practical training for drivers, has had little to write home about.
Kenya’s battle with its unflattering statistics on road safety began in September 2003 when Transport Minister John Michuki gazetted laws that were aimed at bringing back sanity in the matatu industry.
The laws required every Passenger Service Vehicle (PSV) to be fitted with speed governors that capped speed at 80 kilometres per hour, have seat belts for all passengers, and a defined passenger capacity.
But the law never achieved much with the measures quickly done away and, 15 years later, a majority of PSVs ply various routes in the country with wanton impunity — overloaded, no seat belts, and no speed governors.
Nine years later came the Integrated National Transport Policy which culminated in the review of the Traffic Act Cap 403 leading to the Traffic Amendment Act of 2012, making speeding punishable by suspension of a driver’s licence for not less than three years.
In July 2013, then Transport Principal Secretary Nduva Muli launched “Safety First Operation” where Traffic Police, the Judiciary and the Ministry of Transport were roped in to conduct a series of safety first operations on compliance with speed governor requirements in various parts of the country.
The aim of the operation was to ensure that both the vehicle owners and their employees are held responsible for the offences. But nothing came out of the process.
Even evidence-based interventions employed by NTSA to deal with road crash fatalities such as speed assessment through use of speed cameras on various highways failed to tame the tide as it was turned into a money-minting avenue by rogue traffic officers.
On Wednesday, Matatu Owners Association chairman Simon Kimutai said the police are operating an extortion ring that exploits the entire transport industry and makes it impossible to maintain any form of safety regulations on the road.
“Once he has the money, he doesn’t bother to perform any safety checks. You are free to go despite what faults you might have,” said Mr Kimutai.
He also said Sacco managements are to blame as they have no bureau that keeps track of PSV drivers to make sure repeat offenders are barred from the road.
SOME OF THE ACCIDENTS THIS YEAR
December 2017:36 people died in December at Salgaa
January 1: Two pedestrians died at Salgaa
January 8: Two died in Taita- Taveta
February 20: Four people died on Nakuru-Nairobi road
March 5: Three people died in Naivasha including a driver attached to Laikipia County
March 24: Three died along Karatina-Nyeri Road in crash involving a vehicle belonging to Kenya Water and Climate Resilience Project.
March 31: One killed in Pangani head-on collision
April 15: One killed on Chuka-Nairobi highway
April 22: Nine people died in a road accident while travelling back from a dowry ceremony
April 30: Two people died in a multiple crash in Tharaka Nithi.
May 13: Murang’a board chair Titus Waithaka died in Thika road accident
May 20: Fourteen people perished at Kamukuywa bridge on Kitale-Webuye highway
June 25: Two died in Kibarani accident in Mombasa
June 20: Eight people died on Nakuru-Elementaita road
July 1: Three killed in Naivasha when a bus heading to western Kenya rolled
July 4: Nineteen killed in bus car crash at Emali along Nairobi–Mombasa road
July 28: Ten died in an accident after a matatu rammed into pedestrians at the Old Nation roundabout
August 5: Ten pupils of St Gabriel Primary School died in a school bus accident at Kanginga area, two kilometers from Mwingi town
August 8: Three people died along Nakuru-Naivasha road
August 8: Athlete Nicholas Bett died along Eldoret-Kapsabet road
August 11: Three died in Konza accident
August 17: Four family members died on Nyeri- Nyahururu road
August 2: Five killed on Nakuru Kericho road
August 21: Eight family members died on Nyeri- Nyahururu road in Nyeri town
September 4: Two died in Haile Selassie road accident in Nairobi
September 8: Four people killed in accident near Salgaa
September 14: Environment and Lands Court Judge died in a midnight accident on Nyeri-Nyahururu road.