A few weeks ago, I spent about half an hour on the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) website. As you can imagine, my interest was rather personal. Few of us, of course with the exception of journalists and academics, visit websites such as those of NTSA purely for purposes of learning. It will usually be about a new log book, driving license, motor vehicle inspection, number plates or tenders.
I am grateful that NTSA has made it possible to access some of these services from the comfort of our offices, homes or even on the streets.
Anyway, while I was on the site trying to access a service, my attention was arrested by damning statistics which kept flicking on the home page. As per the statistics, 2,750 people had lost their lives as a result of road crashes between January 1, 2018 and November 21, 2018, 41 higher than the same period in 2017. According to the Authority, pedestrians lead the pack with 1,042 having lost their lives.
As I sat there trying to make sense of the numbers, it occurred to me that these were not just statistics. They were real people with real families and real jobs. They came from communities, belonged to some religious group and had friends who treasured them. When their lives are abruptly snuffed by accidents, the loss reverberates across families, communities, enterprises, social groups and ultimately hurts the nation’s healthcare and long term prosperity.
It therefore behooves all of us, whether as government, development planners, academics, operators of public transport, passengers, pedestrians, and collectively as citizens to play our part individually to end the recklessness on our roads that continue to claim lives of thousands every year. Where opportunity presents itself, let us all work together to build a nation where citizens respect one another, where giving way is honoured, not looked down upon and where one life lost causes us to rise up and proclaim, not again.
The major causes of accidents are in the public domain as indeed are the ways to stem to it. I therefore won’t spend too much time repeating what we have heard for over and over it became some sort of cliché.
I would like, however, to suggest that the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), vilified as it is by a segment of our populations for reasons to do with debt and its sustainability, is one of our best hopes for reducing road carnage. For when SGR Phase 2 from Nairobi to Malaba is complete, much of the freight that is currently being moved by road will no doubt find their way to the wagons moved on SGR whether from Mombasa to Nairobi or Nairobi to Naivasha or Mombasa all the way to Malaba.
I don’t know much about the cost but I sure hope it will be cheaper for individual transporters to move their stuff to the various destinations than the alternative. But of this I am 100% certain. Accidents on the roads will be reduced due to decreased traffic flow on the Mombasa – Nairobi – Nakuru – Malaba Highway as freight trucks will be fewer on the roads.
It is expected that the number of motor vehicles on the Mombasa -Nairobi – Nakuru – Malaba highway will decrease significantly as people take advantage of the more efficient railway line. Similarly, fewer road accidents will occur as the road will be decongested.
The fact that the railway corridor will be fenced off and therefore the railway line will be inaccessible from either side will further lead to decreased accidents since pedestrians will have to utilize foot bridges. Similarly the number of wildlife and livestock deaths will also be drastically reduced as there will be no chance for them to wander off to the SGR.
The recent decision by the Ministries of Interior and Transport to strictly enforce the Michuki rules is a great move that has widely been widely welcomed by Kenyans. Most accidents happen because of drunkenness, recklessness, speeding having un-roadworthy vehicles on the road, failure to obey traffic rules. But they also happen because of the poor state of some of our roads. Some of the roads were poorly designed and were a death trap even before they were opened to the public. Others are too narrow and poorly lit. We must always remember that we can never build enough roads to keep up with the growing population and expanding economy. Having too many vehicles, with each trying to have an
advantage over the other, is itself a big risk for fatal accidents.
The future of our transport sector depends a lot on expanding alternatives for both passengers and cargo, making them more efficient, cost effective and safe.