United Kingdom – 5.1; Germany – 6.8; Australia – 7.3; United States – 12.91. No these are not the increases in Gross Domestic Product of these counties but rather the number of traffic fatalities per 100,000 vehicles.
The numbers are rather shocking. In the United States (US), they kill 12.9 people for every 100,000 vehicles on the road. When you multiply that by the number of vehicles in the US, you end up with 40,000 deaths, about the size of a small town in Kenya.
In Kenya, the number of people killed as a result of road accidents is much more modest. We only kill a little over 3,000 people annually. But if you look at those deaths versus the number of vehicles we have in Kenya, the number is 640. So the United Kingdom (UK) is 5.1, German is 6.8 and Kenya is 640. Now, this is shocking!
If you listen to the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), the Traffic Police or even the politicians, you will hear them pontificate that the reason for accidents is the poor roads, black spots, and speeding. By the way, it is SPEEDING not OVERSPEEDING! But I digress…
Drivers are the cause of accidents
The reality is that even if you fixed all the roads, eliminated all the black spots and stopped speeding we would still kill the same number of people every year. Why? The reason for the carnage on Kenyan roads is very simple – driver behaviour. Change driver behaviour and you will reduce the number of fatalities significantly.
Why isn’t it all those other things that institutions like to blame? It doesn’t matter if the road is in poor condition or if it is a black spot. Road conditions and black spots don’t cause accidents, drivers do. A well-behaved driver in any road condition or black spot situation is in no more risk of causing an accident than on any other road.
Speeding is always a concern, but speeding doesn’t cause an accident, it only calibrates the extent of the damage. The secret of safe driving is space. In fact, there is a very famous organization that teaches defensive driving and their definition of an accident is, “two vehicles sharing the same space at the same time”.
So, as long as you keep space around your vehicle you will not have an accident irrespective of almost any speed you travel or the poor driving behaviour of other drivers.
So why is the behaviour of Kenyan drivers so poor versus the UK, Germany or Australia? Again the answer is simple. In all of those jurisdictions, there are bad consequences for poor driving behaviour. For example, the fine for overlapping is about KSh 23,000 in Australia. And that isn’t a theoretical number. If you are caught overlapping in Sydney, you will be fined KSh 23,000 – no questions asked. And no amount of a bribe will get you off. In fact, an offer of a bribe will more likely get you into more trouble. The same is true in Germany, the UK, and the United States. You will notice, all the countries with relatively low death rates have the same punitive consequences for bad driving behaviour. Most important, the rules are enforced!
Kenyan traffic cops rarely enforce the law
We have consequences for bad driving behaviour in Kenya as well but Traffic Police don’t enforce traffic laws. How many times have you seen a matatu or a private car overlapping right in front of a policeman/woman and they do absolutely nothing?
I once opened my window and asked a policeman to enforce the rule and he told me to mind my own business. As human beings, when you know there are no consequences for poor behaviour most of us will behave badly, at least most of the time. You see that in your children. If you have rules (no television until you finish your homework) and don’t enforce them then I can guarantee you that your child won’t do their homework.
A clear demonstration of this is to watch your ‘typical’ Kenyan driver drive in Australia. He/she doesn’t overlap, pass when it is unsafe, etc.
So if it is that simple – and I am sure it is, then why don’t the Traffic Police do their job and enforce the rules rather than spending their time stopping every second matatu and then letting them go, (even though most of them are mechanically unfit, don’t have seat belts and are overloaded).
I think the answer is Traffic Police have not been required or monitored to enforce traffic rules. Instead, and sad to say this, they are motivated to stop drivers to see if they can find something wrong so they can demand a bribe. While I am very opposed to bribes in any manner shape or form, at least if traffic police stopped bad behaviour and accepted kitu kidogo (a little something) to let the driver off, it would be better than what we have today. Then there would be consequences for bad behaviour. The government won’t earn any money but it would be a deterrent to the poor drivers.
How traffic cops can collect KSh 400 million per month as fines
We can get the Traffic Police to do their job simply by requiring each of them to write and turn in the fines/cash bail for 20 offenses per officer/month. There are an estimated 10,000 or so traffic policemen and women on Kenyan roads.
If you had that requirement, you would issue 400,000 tickets per month. Assume a modest fine/cash bail of KSh 2,000 per offense and you will collect KSh 400 million per month! Now is the requirement of issuing 20 tickets per month difficult? At the start, no. In fact, I can go out to any road in Kenya and in an hour, spot 20 driving offences. If this was done, I can guarantee that the number of offenses and poor driving would plummet as would the carnage on our roads.
But to be successful, we need someone in Government or the Police to take the leadership and make it happen. But implementing this I am sure would cut the death toll on Kenyan roads in half within a year.
The WHAT is easy, it is the WHO that currently alludes us.
1 Based on statistics from 2013 – Wikipedia.org
By: Bob Paterson