Despite all the ‘tough’ measures undertaken by the National Transport and Safety Authority to reduce casualties on our road, more fatalities were recorded last year as compared with the previous year.
A report released by the authority, indicates more than 3,000 lives were lost in 2015 compared to slightly over 2,900 in 2014. Pedestrians accounted for the highest number of casualties, with boda boda taking the second position.
But while the Francis Meja outfit and traffic police officers, are quick to implement superfluous measures against motorists, little is done about motorcyclists, most of whom operate without driving licences or any experience. Neither does the NTSA educate pedestrians.
Apart from random and far-in-between cat-and-mouse games between traffic police officers and county government karate's on one side and pedestrians in Nairobi on the other, the NTSA has not rolled out any meaningful road safety education programme for pedestrians. The authority might point to its media advertisements campaign, but how many people watch these?
The majority of boda boda operators know absolutely nothing about traffic rules and have no riding experience. The joke goes that most of them enter local showrooms, are shown how to start the motorbike, engage gears, accelerate and off they zoom on paying Sh100,000 or so.
The rider then zigzags from the showroom to the nearest open ground and ‘learns’ how to ride by riding round the field several times. Most probably, the rider would be carrying fare paying passengers that same afternoon.
These are the same people we see carrying several passengers and committing all sorts of traffic offences, as the police and the NTSA officers turn the other way. Today, boda bodas are the most dangerous vehicles on our roads. The two-wheelers zoom past at high speeds, overtake cars on all sides, cut through traffic in the most ignorant and careless manner among many other indications of lack of knowledge on road usage.
However, instead of the NTSA and the traffic police concentrating on educating pedestrians on road safety and in the training boda bodas to ensure they are competent not only to ride but also to carry passengers and oversize loads, they are mesmerised by commercial (especially matatus) vehicles and private cars.
Traffic police officers position themselves on all manner of chochoros to brazenly collect predetermined bribes from matatus and trucks. They no longer pretend to be checking for any traffic offence and those who do, forget themselves and play-act to check windscreen stickers on the right, while normally these stickers are on the left.
The NTSA, on the other hand, is obsessed with speeding especially on the outskirts of major towns with the 50kph speed limit being set at more than 10km away from the city centre. Unfortunately, the cameras that are supposed to monitor speeding cars are mostly stationed at the beginning of the 10km and drivers are stopped (as in the case of the Waiyaki Way) about a kilometre from the camera point.
On being captured by a speed gun at Kabete Police Station as one heads to the city, one is stopped somewhere in the vicinity of Mountain View Estate and when released, the ‘offender’ and others whom the camera has not recorded, then drive at speeds in excess of 80kph, all the way to the Westlands roundabout. What may I ask, does the exercise achieve? And since accidents have not increased on this route despite the fact that the speed guns only deter drivers from speeding for only two or slightly more kilometres of the distance, can the police and the NTSA claim to be doing anything to reduce road carnage along Waiyaki Way?
It was also in the NTSA report that most road accidents occur between five in the evening and 10 O’clock at night, a period during which the speed-check cops are either relaxing in the local pub or in their houses. Many are also the times when one would be driving at certain speeds, say 55, but when accosted by the traffic police he is accused of having been driving at more than 80kph. If you ask to see the camera that had purportedly captured you driving at that speed, you are kept waiting for hours and when the camera finally appears, no one short of a rocket scientist, can understand its operator’s mumbo jumbo. Most drivers therefore opt to part with bribes.
The contention here is that, speed limits of 50kph within the city limits are senseless and end up becoming a liability to the economy as well as a cash cow to the traffic cops. The NTSA has identified accident culprits and should concentrate on them instead of harassing motorists and increasing bribery chances for traffic cops, and maybe their officers as well.