There is no doubt that today transport plays a crucial role in the economic development of any country. In Kenya, the Economy Recovery Strategy Paper identifies transport as the third pillar of the economy expected to play a catalytic role in the development of other sectors of the economy.
Road safety is a global problem that impacts negatively on social, economic and political areas. According to statistics from World Health Organization (WHO), over 1.3 million people die through road accidents worldwide every year and more than twice this number are permanently disabled through associated injuries.
The most frightening thing is that 85% of this comes from Africa, South of the Sahara, despite the fact that the region has only 4% of Motor Vehicles worldwide. Most accident victims are young people aged between 15-45 years, the most active productive segment of our population.
Kenya has one of the highest fatality rates in the world and loses up to 3,000 lives every year, with an average of about 8 people killed everyday. In Economic terms this has cost the country about Ksh. 6 Billion annually. Even more serious is the trauma suffered by those affected directly or indirectly by these accidents through loss of injury of their loved ones. In fact in terms of mortality, road accidents have been taken the third killer position after Malaria and HIV/AIDS.
Available data shows that the majority of accidents on Kenyan roads amounting to 85% are caused by human error on the part of road users, 11% are due to poor vehicle conditions and vehicle failure and about 4% are attributable to environmental factors. Human error occurs through various factors such as:-overspeeding, driving under influence of alcohol or drugs, overloading, reckless driving, careless pedestrians and un-qualified drivers.
It is for these reasons that the Ministry of Transport gazetted Legal Notice No. 161 of the year 2003 and No 65 of the Year 2004. These legal notices spelt our various measures to be undertaken regarding Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) aimed at reducing fatalities and accidents. In addition the Ministry of Transport launched a member National Road Safety Campaigns aimed at creating awareness among various stakeholders.
Over-all, the number of motor accidents and fatalities in the country between 2003 and 2004 declined significantly because of the new road safety measures. A closer analysis of the statistics indicates that the strict enforcement of the new rules and regulations, removed more than 2,000 unqualified drivers who were hitherto using fake driving licences. The following measures have contributed to the reduction of fatalities from 2004 to date.
The following are some of the achievements resultant of the Road Safety Campaigns:-
Restoration of Order: Order and discipline have been significantly strengthened in the PSV Sector, enabling commuters to travel in greatly improved comfort.
Reduction of Accidents: Accidents particularly in the Public Service Vehicles sector been reduced by between 30% and 40% since the introduction of road safety reforms.
Decline in crime rate: The high rate of crime and drug abuse particularly in the public service vehicle sector has declined significantly. Requirements that Public Service Vehicle drivers and conductors must get certificates of good conduct have helped to reduce presence of criminals in the industry.
Higher rate of compliance: whereby Public Service Vehicles hitherto bothered to comply with traffic regulations or present themselves for licensing.
There has been a reduction of defective or unroadworthy vehicles from PSV operations and activities of cartels and other illegal groups, hence improved safety and profitability of PSV operations.
Many stakeholders appreciate the efforts with the general public assisting the Government by reporting those who are flouting traffic rules through the given hotline and a dedicated SMS 2333, through which more than 1,000 reports are received per month.
The transport Ministry is committed to the enhancement of road safety activities. It will continue to recognize the role played by the Private Sector and NGO’S like the Automobile Association of Kenya, who have remained strong partners in promoting road safety.
The Automobile Association of Kenya has come up with proactive safety initiatives that are being used to enhance safety on our roads. Over the years, The Automobile Association has ensured that drivers receive the required driving skills.
A Driving Academy, the first of its kind in East Africa, has been established by Shell Kenya Ltd. The facility is open to the public who are interested in acquiring defensive driving skills. To date, 1,565 drivers have been equipped with this skill.