Nairobi’s five most dangerous roads for riders

Tuesday, March 12th, 2024 04:15 | By
Motorists drive past a scene of accident involving a boda boda.
Motorists drive past a scene of accident involving a boda boda. PHOTO/Print

Five key roads in Nairobi have been identified as highways of death.

Thika Super Highway, Mombasa, Kangundo, Outer Ring and Jogoo roads have been dubbed Kenya’s most dangerous roads for motorcyclists and their passengers.

A report dubbed “Fare Price; An Investigation into the health costs of motorcycle taxi crashes in Kenya” released yesterday said the five roads collectively accounted for 9,996 accidents involving boda bodas and their passengers between May 2022 and October last year.

Out of these, 2,384 boda boda riders and their passengers lost their lives while another 5,581 suffered serious injuries. Another 2,031 escaped with minor injuries, states the report compiled by the National Helmet Wearing Coalition alongside the Motorcycle Initiative, Transaid and UK-based FiA Foundation.

The report indicates that the period between July and December 2022 recorded over 120 fatalities, majority of them the boda boda riders as opposed to their pillons.

 This was mainly attributed to the failure to wear helmets on the part of both the riders and their passengers.

The report sought to investigate the health costs of boda boda crashes and also to understand helmet usage levels amongst operators and pillion passengers.

During the period, 249 victims sustained head injuries with each spending close to Sh3 million on treatment according to data obtained from hospitals while those who sustained limb injuries were 149 with each spending close to Sh1.6 million.

Survivors with multiple injuries were 128 with each spending upto Sh1 million on medical expenses.

Twenty five of the victims sustained abdominal injuries with each spending Sh320,740 on medical costs while, seven suffered thoracic injury, each of them spending Sh109,475 on hospital bills.

“Ninety-one per cent of patients were male, with an average age of 31 years old. Similarly, the average age of female patients was also 31 years. As expected, the majority of victims were in the lower age brackets for both women and men, 68 per cent of women and 75 per cent of men being 35 years or under; this mode of transport is considered to be more accessible to young people, both operators and passengers,” the report states.

The study called on law enforcement agencies to act in ensuring riders adhere to traffic rules. Equally, it urged society to change its attitudes towards the wearing of the protective gear.

“Enforcement is a recurrent influencing factor regarding whether or not a motorcycle user decides to wear a helmet, indicating that more vigorous enforcement would lead to an increase in helmet prevalence.”

“Boda boda riders are more often fined for not being able to provide licences or proof of insurance rather than for not wearing a helmet. Helmet usage among pillion passengers was significantly lower than among operators with only 15% of the 1,385 passengers observed wearing a helmet while on a motorcycle,” the report read in part.

Stronger enforcement

It stated that Boda boda saccos represent a solution to stronger enforcement through self-regulating their member riders, as long as they receive the support they need from the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA).

According to the study, helmet use also depends on localities with urban areas like Nairobi recording between 50-60 per cent compliance levels while in the rural areas, usage dropped to about 20 per cent.

Thika Road had the lowest rate of helmet usage at 9.2 per cent while Mombasa Road had the highest helmet usage amongst passengers.

“Helmet use also depends on the distance covered. Most riders do not use helmets when driving for short distances,” the survey found.

It went on: “Most of the pillion passengers do not use helmets as they say the helmets are dirty. Many of the ladies do not wear helmets due to health reasons they say, and riders do not offer any helmets. Most of the riders have only one helmet on their motorbikes.”

The report established that some riders wear helmets halfway on the face while some of their helmets are dirty and therefore discouraging many from wearing them.

“Most of them purchase the helmets but do not wear them, instead they just carry them on the motorbike just to show the law enforcement officers that they have them,” those interviewed told the researchers.

Boda boda operators stated that the primary reasons for wearing a helmet were linked to enforcement crackdowns in certain areas, particularly in Nairobi’s city centre.

Longer distances and wet weather are perceived as presenting greater risk to the rider, therefore on such occasions, helmets are worn. In a minority of cases, passengers insisted that they wear a helmet.

Passengers stated that they are rarely provided with helmets by boda boda operators, with most having only one helmet.

 Also of concern was hygiene with most claiming that where the operator did have a helmet for the passenger, they were either unclean or simply refused to wear them for fear of ‘spoiling their hair’.

Wearing helmets

Additionally, riders are often asked when they get to the hospital whether or not they were wearing a helmet, with health personnel revealing that many would lie about whether or not they were wearing helmets. They estimate that the majority, 75 per cent, were not wearing helmets when the crash occurred.

“The reality is that many patients do not have the money to pay for treatment and therefore Mama Lucy Hospital regularly waives the fee. The Social Care department follows up with patients, traces relatives where needed, organises transport, and tries to get payment from patients,” the report explained.

NTSA Director General George Njau revealed how former President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the manufacture of “user friendly” helmets to entice boda boda users into wearing them.

“The former Head of state gave directives for manufacture of a helmet that is durable, fashionable and easier to the pockets for the users. People would say, we don’t want yellow colour, I think they are tormented by that colour,” Njau said.

Director of Global Injury at The George Institute and a Senior Research Fellow at Imperial College London, Margie Peden urged the private sector should step up to the plate and offer free helmets for riders and passengers with every motorcycle.

“Why should the onus only be on the user? Seatbelts come with a vehicle – you don’t have to pay more for them, so why don’t helmets come with motorcycles?” he posed.

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