Despite the Christmas season being for merrymaking, there were 486 deaths on Kenyan roads from December 1, 2017 to January 15, last year, up from 428 in the same period the previous year.
The figures recorded by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) ascertain the Christmas period to be the deadliest on Kenyan roads.
This period is marked by increased traffic volumes on the highways, with many people in transit. Transporters develop the urge to make more money at the expense of safety, with devastating consequences. Travellers risk all to get home.
The surge in travel tempts drivers to overload public service vehicles, drive at high speed, avoid resting and, sometimes, be ‘high’ on something. Travellers are under pressure to board overfilled or unregulated vehicles that step in to fill the gap. Commercial vehicles, which led in deaths as at November 18 with 788 cases, are also part of this rush.
Private motorists, who had killed 735 people by then — ironically, 250 more than matatus — are mostly characterised by drink-driving and speeding for fun. In making merry, most people, especially youth, who are the most vulnerable age group in terms of crash fatalities, choose to go for road trips. Booze and loud music spice up the trips, leading to intoxicated driving. And even when the driver is sober, the level of distraction is high.
Boda-boda riders emerged the most vulnerable among motorists with 571 fatalities.
A Global Road Safety Partnership 2007 manual, “Drinking and driving: A road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners”, shows the immediate effects of alcohol on the brain as either depressing or stimulating, depending on the quantity consumed, and that alcohol results in impairment, increasing the likelihood of a crash as it leads to poor judgement, increased reaction time, lower vigilance and decreased visual acuity.
In the document “Managing speed”, WHO cites excessive and inappropriate speed as key risks for road traffic deaths and injuries, contributing to a third of traffic fatalities in high-income countries and a half in low- and middle-income ones.
To curb the ‘ritualistic’ carnage, long distance PSVs should use two drivers and halfway stations for fatigue management. Enforcement of rules against drink-driving and speeding must be focused on the purpose and all motorists must take it upon themselves to put to an end the lethal vices.
Passengers must not allow themselves to be ferried in overfilled vehicles. Innocent passengers normally end up paying the price of someone else’s negligence by not standing up to rogue driving.
Travellers must also take the personal responsibility to buckle up. The seatbelt is the most effective road safety intervention ever. It’s proven to save lives and reduce the severity of injury.
Motorists should desist from alerting other drivers on law enforcement activities being undertaken as that makes one a party to deaths on the road.
To everyone travelling this Christmas, remember you can’t get home unless you are safe — and safety begins with you.
Mr Chome is a road safety officer at NTSA. [email protected] @chometweet