Despite a myriad of efforts being put in place to curb road carnage, the high number of casualties continues unabated. Data from the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) show that road fatalities have increased by 10 per cent this year compared to 2017. According to the latest statistics survey by the Authority, 2495 people had been killed by October 21 compared to 2,225 who died the same period last year. Pedestrians lead the group with 948 having lost their lives while pedal cyclists are the least affected with 42 of them having succumbed as a result of road crashes. Last year alone, 60 per cent of the over 400 deaths on Nairobi roads involved pedestrians.
The situation in Kenya mirrors a similar scenario globally, as according to the 2015 WHO Pedestrian Safety Manual for Decision Makers and Practitioners, pedestrians constitute 22 per cent of all road deaths and in some countries, this proportion is as high as two thirds. Millions more people are injured in traffic-related crashes while walking, some of whom become permanently disabled. These incidents cause much suffering and grief as well as economic hardship for families and loved ones. For the insurers, the accidents result in high motor and other accident related claims, which impact negatively on the companies’ bottom line.
It would appear the trend may not change any time soon considering that as way back as 2015, NTSA, in its 2015 Final Road Safety Status Report, says that pedestrians make up the highest number of people who die from road accidents. The report says that of the 3,000 deaths reported each year, pedestrians account for 1,344 or 40 per cent. In a recent interview with Business Daily, Mr Eric Kiniti, Kenya Breweries Limited Corporate Relations Director and a board member of the Safe Way Right Way (a road safety organization), contends the design of major highways is partly to blame for the high number of pedestrian deaths.
Mr Kiniti also points out that pedestrians die because they look for the most convenient way to cross a road. As such, many will choose to dash across an eight-lane highway rather than walk a kilometre to the nearest footbridge. However, it is worth noting that there are those who lose their lives due to lack of adequate safe crossing points, including zebra crossings. Then there are those pedestrians who are distracted while crossing the roads, mostly when speaking or texting on their mobile phones, or listening to music through their headphones. Still others lose their lives when motorists fail to slow down or stop at designated points as required.
It does not help matters that most road signs are seemingly targeted at motorists, with pedestrians being given very little attention. A cursory glance at our roads shows that the only signs targeting pedestrians are the ones such as “Children crossing”, “Pedestrian crossing on the spot” or zebra crossings. There are no signs, for instance, put next to footbridges warning pedestrians against dashing across the road.
But when all is said and done, there is need for the various road safety enforcement agencies to come up with stiffer and deterrent penalties for motorists who fail to observe speed limits while driving around town, as well as pedestrians who fail to use designated crossing points.
Still, there is need to come up with campaigns to influence attitude and behavior change among pedestrians and motorists to improve sharing of our roads. The campaign messaging should encourage improved sharing of the road, mutual respect among pedestrians and the role of the motorist in pedestrian safety. Such messages should be disseminated through mainstream media, social media, sponsored social forums and school programmes. As an industry player, CIC Group is ready to work with other stakeholders to ensure that sanity is restored on our roads.