Invest in research to abate road crashes
Yesterday’s road crash in Naivasha that claimed 14 lives will remain a big blot in Kenya’s road safety record and makes it even more urgent to put in place a team whose sole mandate is to investigate road crashes so that targeted interventions can be taken in future to make roads safer for all.
It is worrying that the crash occurred as Kenyans gear up for Easter festivities, a period during which many people travel long distances to spend the time with their loved ones upcountry. What this means is that there are, and will continue to be, many drivers on highways who are not familiar with the routes they are, or will be using, over the Easter period. This exposes them to risks associated with sudden changes in weather patterns, unfamiliar road designs, fatigue, inexperience and other risks associated with factors such as driving at night over long distances.
Unless there is sufficient driver education during this period, the risk of a rise in road carnage will increase in tandem with the number of road users. That is why institutions such as the National Transport and Safety Authority and Kenya National Highways Authority should embark on a campaign to educate road users on aspects such as the need for vehicle maintenance ahead of long journies, why drivers should make regular rest stops, observing the highway code, lane discipline and other human behaviours that have an impact on road safety. However, as one way of ensuring that roads become safer going forward, there is need for an agency to investigate crashes and make recommendations that can prevent recurrence of accident patterns. Without such investigations and research, road crashes death and injury tolls will continue to go up because Kenya lacks data that can be used to make interventions that improve road safety.
Every year, more than 8,000 people die in road crashes in Kenya, according to the World Health Organisation. Of these, about 3,000 die at the scenes of crashes, some from mishandling by first responders. With research, it is possible to identify causes of many of these deaths so that the right solutions can be deployed. For instance, residents in crash prone areas can be trained in first aid, how to handle survivors without visible injuries or how to act as marshals to manage traffic at crash scenes.