In February, the NTSA working in collaboration with the matatu owners, traffic police and speed governor manufacturers promised a crackdown to rid Kenyan roads of faulty speed digital governors. True, their personnel are to be found on major highways, but they have not rid the roads of defective or easily manipulated gadgets. The authority is hell bent on ‘enforcing’ the law which is pretty good, but they have to convert the users first.
Whether one’s vehicle is fitted with a speed governor or not, drivers must know why they are supposed to drive at manageable speeds but not simply because they expect speed checks ahead.
Last Friday but one, I travelled from Nairobi to Runyenjes and since we were going for a funeral, there were some ahead and others behind me in the funeral convoy. There was a speed check somewhere across the Chania River and those ahead of us would warn us to slow down to avoid being arrested. It is not important to say whether I was exceeding the speed limit or not, but suffice to say that of course those in my car would also warn those behind us.
However the stretch between Makutano-Embu-Runyenjes, was a free for all and with no speed check anywhere on the route, drivers could test the limits of their cars throwing the need to drive at regulated speeds out of the window.
The next day, I attended a function in Elburgon and of course those who use the Nairobi-Nakuru highway regularly will warn you in advance not to speed anywhere beyond Limuru or otherwise. Drivers including of matatus, drive at safe speeds from Uplands all the way to Gilgil but after that the limits are broken wantonly.
Apart from a short stretch before Njoro town, the section between Nakuru and Njoro is drivable if a mite narrow and so drivers especially of the matatu kind drive at breakneck speeds. On this section, I did not observe any traffic police presence.
Then on our way back, driving between Nakuru and Nairobi in the evening became a nightmare with every other driver especially of matatus trying to outdo the others by zooming past at high speeds or overlapping on the left. Obviously the Kenyan police cannot enforce speed limits after dark, something the drivers were aware of and so they broke the requirement with impunity. A times vehicles overlapped for long distances along the stretch where Pastor Ng’ang’a is alleged to have hit another car killing Mercy Njeri, an apparent danger spot the police should keep their eyes on.
It was obvious from the speeds at which the matatus were being driven that the supposedly tamper-proof digital speed governors had been interfered with, which puts to question, the credibility of the NTSA and the manufacturers of the speed gadgets.
The speeding aside, the use of head lights is another major hazard for drivers at night. Many Kenyans are ‘macho’ drivers who apart from pushing their motor vehicles to the limit, always want to prove something to others on the road. They will use the highest voltage bulbs to blind other drivers and in their idiocy ‘prove’ that their cars are better. But most notorious in refusing to dim their lights for oncoming traffic, are truck drivers. In the comfort of their cabins, these road hogs apparently believe they are ‘too high up’, to be harmed in case of accidents and will blind you uncaringly not matter how many times you flash them.
So while erecting speed and other police checks, is an okay idea, this will not eliminate the menace that is speeding or the arrogance of blinding other drivers among other bad manners of our roads and their deadly consequences. If anything, the main beneficiaries of these road blocks are the traffic police officers and the NTSA crews who will continue raking millions of shillings in bribes.
What NTSA and the traffic police should do is to extend their vigilance beyond five in the afternoon, because speeding and other infringements of traffic rules do not occur only during the day.
More importantly, together with the matatu owners and other parties including the traffic police, they should introduce regular seminars and workshops for drivers in major towns and at the level of counties. These must be serious road safety seminars that try to change the mentality of drivers and show them it is in their interest to drive safely at allowed speeds and respect the rights of other drivers to avoid unnecessary road accidents. The seminars must not become the cash cows that are common within government departments, parastatals and independent commissions where such are organized to enrich heads of the organizations, certain well connected consultancy firms, hotels and individuals.
Shame to the owner and crew of the ‘clean water’ tanker I saw ‘filling’ at a murky pond along the road next to the rice fields of Mwea on the evening of August 21, even as donkeys drunk from and did their thing into the filthy pool.