By Silas N
A few notes on accidents.
1. You ban night travel knowing too well that schools open on Sunday and it is usually chaotic as we try to get kids to schools even when buses work day and night.
There is a kneejerk approach favored by our government, so cosmetic, so band-aid, it is taxing when you are a thinking Kenya. For instance, there is no reason absolutely why schools must open on second.
Secondly banning night travel will no more solve accidents than eating salt will give you diabetes. Granted statistically more accidents happen at night.
If you have noticed, it is the poor who almost always die in these nightmarish accidents. There is an attitude we have towards poor people in the country that is just appalling. Go to Country Bus and see the number of choices the poor have to make. Visit their markets, look at the safety of the matatus, they travel in, and you will know how the laws are made in this country.
As Wandia Njoya as said on Twitter, “We have put our country into debt building SGR through national parks to take people to the beach, and now we’re extending the rail to Naivasha so that Europeans can have roses for valentines, instead of having a functioning rail for people traveling to Western Kenya.”
2. To minimize the carnage, there are short and long-term strategies.
a) Charles Onyango Obbo ever observed that part of the reason for the high number of accidents in Kenya is that our roads are so badly done, hence we assemble buses that raised, often too high, and if you did Physics up to Form 2, you know that small problem of Center of Gravity, the higher it is, the more unstable a bus is. Most of the buses on our roads have a structural flaw. In countries where people think, Buses are so low and wide, hence very stable.
We can think of how we can make our roads as smooth and even as possible and how we can make our buses more stable. Some of those buses like Matunda just look unsafe to a plain eye, it is amazing they survive our roads at all.
b)I loved the American insurance system. If you are a careless driver, your insurance premiums go higher automatically. They can know you are careless by the number of times you are booked for traffic offenses. Ask any of your relative living abroad. Their worst fear is causing an accident or any traffic mistake. If you go to court to argue, you will waste so much time, and risk losing, and points are taken off your Driver’s license. When they take off points, the system is intelligent and will notify every relevant authority in each state. If you cause accidents (even minor bumps), like three within two years, you can’t even work for Uber or any taxi-company.
We can replicate the same in Kenya. SACCOs that are error-prone, like the Rongai must be made to pay highest and punitive premium. This way, the owners can instill self-discipline in the drivers.
Driver discipline helps a lot. We can have a case study on Double Ms and Transline Bus services. They have quite a disciplined crew by our standards, and I bet they have not caused as many accidents, over the years.
Sometimes we see drunk drivers, high on everything, driving like maniacs, and the only thing they are rushing to is either a drink of some quick cheap sex on a brothel. Not good.
c) A relative who once worked for a Civil Engineering professor at a local university, once told me, that in the 1990s, at the height of the Structural Adjustment Programs, Worl Bank adviced that for the roads they were funding to be made narrower by some measurements so as to save on costs.
That is the reason some of our roads are so narrow, and dangerous. The Kisii Migori road for instance. We now make better roads, but most of the time, contractors finish poorly. Take forever to mark the road, erect good signs and be creative on parts of the road that dangerous. Maybe as a public, we need to be vigilant and raise hell, any time a contractor does some shoddy job.
3. The matatu sector, by and large, reflects our public attitude to stuff; cavalier, reckless, stupid and all. May individually, we need some mirrors to look at.