Future motorbike riders and passengers will travel more safely if a theory explaining why this mode of transport leads in head-on collisions in Kenya can be adopted and put to good use.
The theory on head-on collisions, which draws from National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) data, states: The smaller the vehicle type, the higher its chances of getting involved in a frontal crash.
According to NTSA, 461 head-on collisions caused 207 deaths between 2015 and 2017, of which more than half (54 percent) involved either a motorcycle or a saloon car.
Motorcycles were involved in more than 27 percent of the head-on collision accidents, second only to saloon cars, which accounted for 28 percent.
So what would explain such notoriety by motorbike riders?
Riders have a reputation for being impatient and in a hurry. Coupled with the small size of motorbikes, relative to other machines on the road, overtaking comes up as a leading cause of head-on crashes by motorbikes.
While overtaking, cars and bikes increase their speed, thereby significantly raising their impact force and causing a fatal crash in case of a frontal accident.
However, a good number of head-on collisions involving motorcycles or small vehicles still take place even when the smaller-bodied road users are not overtaking, but instead it is the larger-bodied ones doing so. In such cases, larger vehicles would evade their larger counterparts (in the process of overtaking) and ram on the smaller ones, that are in their rightful lane.
The evasion mechanism used by drivers of large vehicles is inbuilt in self-driving cars to minimise casualties in the event of a crash.
Given motorcycles are the smallest in size on the road, they are at the bottom of the food chain, thus an evasion target for other road users (see image at the top of the page). This hypothesis could partially explain why motorcycles are involved in head-on collisions with all vehicle types.
This theory calls for sensitisation of motorcyclists on their unique vulnerability while on the road, especially when overtaking or when an oncoming vehicle is overtaking.
The most unusual head-on crash in that period was between a motorcycle and a bicycle, according to the NTSA data.
In cases of head-on crashes involving a motorised vehicle and a slower non-motorised form of transport, the blame should always be on the motorised vehicle.
The single case reported, in which a cyclist was hit by a motorcycle and died, occurred at night on the Kuvasali-Ikoli road, Kabras, Kakamega County, July 30, 2017. Whether the accident was occasioned by the cyclist being in the wrong lane, the motorbike rider should have spotted the cyclist if the bike had a headlamp and if the rider were driving at a reasonable speed.
Half of the accidents happened at night.
Vans, tuktuks and tractors recorded the lowest number of head-on crashes – two, three and four, respectively. Matatus, the most popular form of transport in Kenya, ranked sixth with 31 head-on crashes, after trailers, involved in 52 instances.
Almost all the head-on collisions took place in areas with a high population density, such as Nyanza, Western Kenya, Nairobi, the Mount Kenya region and Eastern.
The highway connecting Mombasa to Uganda through Busia and Malava towns was the most notorious stretch.