The strict enforcement of traffic regulations begins on Monday and there is anxiety over possible chaos on the roads.
We want to state right from the outset that the rules must be implemented without fear or favour. With horrendous traffic accidents killings many people and which arise purely from recklessness and sheer indiscipline, the government must act and bring to an end the menace.
But we are alive to the challenges. Already some public service vehicle operators have threatened to withdraw services, arguing that the notice was too short to install all the required safety gadgets and comply with the rules. That cannot wash. With or without the notice, the operators know pretty well that there are requirements they must adhere to. That there has been laxity in enforcing the rules does not extricate any party from abiding by them.
Commuters must be ready for chaos and some inconvenience but nothing comes without a sacrifice. We should not be intimidated and cowed by unscrupulous business people who do not care at all about the safety of commuters. We live in a society guided by rules and all must conform to. The authorities must act ruthlessly on those imagining they are above the law and can do as they wish must
Our concern is that the roads have become a perennial death trap. So many lives are lost due to sheer carelessness. Most public service vehicles thrive by disobeying rules. No seat belts, no speed governors and no discipline. Vehicles are driven badly, passengers are mistreated, prices are inflated whimsically and other road users are harassed. It is the rule of the jungle. That has no place in a civilised society.
Whereas the operators are to blame, law enforcement officers are equally culpable. Traffic police officers are notorious for extorting bribes and allowing unroadworthy vehicles to operate. It is not a secret that many of those vehicles are operated by some police officers and other senior people in government. Nobody can touch those vehicles even if they violate traffic rules. This must be stopped.
Cabinet ministers Fred Matiang’i (Interior) and James Macharia (Transport) have committed themselves to pushing through the rules and warned of drastic action against defaulters. We want to take them on their word. They must act firmly and determinedly and without relenting.
Past experience has shown that the road madness can be curtailed. Former Transport Minister John Michuki did it and made a name out of it. The moment to repeat that feat is now. More importantly, the ministers must be consistent. It would be catastrophic to introduce the rules for a few months and then relapse to the old bad manners.