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October 19, 2018

Carnage: Cops as social engineers

The wreckage of the bus that was involved in accident at Migaa area, Salgaa on Nakuru-Eldoret Highway on Sunday, December 31, 2017. /AMOS KERICH
The wreckage of the bus that was involved in accident at Migaa area, Salgaa on Nakuru-Eldoret Highway on Sunday, December 31, 2017. /AMOS KERICH

Social engineering refers to the surveys, studies, background inquiry of the prevailing conditions or circumstances in a given situation before a project or policy issue is implemented.

It is akin to environmental impact assessment, which is mandatory prior to projects involving infrastructural development. But this discourse is about the role of police in the entire road transport industry.

Road crashes in the recent past have become a global challenge, and have actually drawn the attention of international actors. The World Health Organization came up, for example, with a deliberate action plan to reduce the casualties through “Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 (RS10 )” programme. The introduction of speed cameras to deal with speeding motorists was among the measures put in place. Through this programme, Kenya received the first two binary speed camera with integrated video from the WHO, which were deployed to the Naivasha and Thika Traffic bases in 2011. They are now across the country.

Statistics show Kenya recorded 23, 927 fatal accidents in the last nine years ( 2008-2016 ) involving 28, 848 victims. This translated into an approximately 3,205 deaths per year. During this period, serious and slight injury accidents combined recorded 47,008 cases, resulting in 129,199 victims. An approximated 14,355 persons survive with serious and slight injuries each year. It is unfortunate that a substantial number of survivors have encountered socioeconomic lifestyle change, as some could no longer engage actively in their daily chores. Comparing our situation with other global traffic management regimes, Japan, with a population of 127 million people, for example, in 2013 recorded 4,373 fatal accidents. This is 2.9 per cent. Kenya, on the other hand, in 2013 recorded 3,191 fatal accidents out of a population of approximately 44 million people. This translated into 12.5 per cent or 12 deaths per 100,000 people, which is on the higher side.

The Kenya National Highways Authority, the Kenya Urban Roads Authority, the Kenya Rural Roads Authority, the National Transport and Safety Authority, the counties and the police have a role and functions in the sector.

Borrowing from internationally accepted approaches to road construction that emphasises the 3Es model, the said players need to reactivate their roles appropriately.

The 3Es include engineering aspects — road construction complete with road signs, signal markings and installation of all required furniture to facilitate free flow, traffic control and safety of users. Two, education, which includes schoolgoing children, adults and the elderly whose curriculum depends on the social environment. Three, enforcement, which is the actual deployment of police officers in traffic points to ensure adherence to traffic law and regulation on the road.

These components make a “traffic society” — people (drivers, passengers, pedestrians and (motor cyclists), vehicles (means of transport) and the traffic environment (roads, bridges, non-motorised traffic sections, among others). It is my verity that if the aforesaid agencies find a common ground of engagement, the sorry accident figures can be reduced remarkably.

The police, particularly the Traffic Department, is an important partner in traffic management and, in an ideal situation, their involvement in the implementation of the 3Es is critically important. Traffic police attend to all accident scenes and document the causes, victims and their classes, damage and, with precision, may suggest a remedy to avoid such occurrences. This was further well documented by use of the accident report form (P41 ), which is supposed to be prepared in quadruplets but more importantly, one copy was to be sent to the district works (roads) engineer. This ensured the concerned agency was informed of the damage to the road furniture. Now, with roads authorities and counties in place, it’s a challenge as to who assumed the roles of the district works (roads) engineer. We need to urgently review the accident report form (P41 ), with a view of adding some accident scene aspects or details that are lacking. The channels of informing the roads authorities need to be revived.

Finally, the situation calls for all stakeholders in road transport back to the drawing board to develop policies and programmes to reverse the trend. The Traffic Department and NTSA need to strike complementary working relations and cede roles and functions belonging to each other for a common goal. The approximate 3,000 annual fatalities can be reduced and injuries minimised.

The general appeal to the citizens is to behave responsibly on the road as safety starts with each one of us.

Otieno is a chief inspector

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