When he set out on a journey to Makindu on March 2002, David Mutambuki’s mission was to conduct some business in the town and return home. Little did he know that his journey would tragically end near Small World Country Club along Nairobi-Mombasa Highway. Mutambuki was then the Managing Director of Daje Enterprises Limited, his construction company. He was on a journey to a site meeting at Makindu where he had a project.
Mutambuki, however, never achieved his mission. A tragic road accident only 45 minutes drive from Nairobi City, along Nairobi Mombasa Highway almost robbed him of his life. He, however, survived although the financial crash was more enormous.
“To date I cannot recall how it happened. By that time I was making about Sh5 million per month depending on availability of the project since construction is seasonal,” he said.
Pain and a sense of loss is painted on Mutambuki’s face as he narrates the ordeal that destabilised him financially, socially and even threatened his business immensely. “The accident has, to date, cost me over Sh12 million. I was admitted to the Nairobi hospital and was in wheel chair for three years,” he said.
The 59-year-old has been on two crutches since 2005 but is now on one as he recuperates. For over the decade that he nursed the physical injuries, Mutambuki says that his business was affected and he had to close the office and was operating at home. He is, however, back on normal office operations.
“This also affected my family both psychologically and financially. It has not been easy for me and the whole family,” he narrated. Despite the fact that he had a comprehensive insurance cover against road accidents, Mutambuki’s insurance firm paid only for his car and did not pay for his medical bill.
“I paid my medical bills from my company and fundraiser from friends,” he said. Mutambuki represents the over 30, 000 Kenyans who, according to Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary Eng Michael Kamau, end up totally or partially paralysed due to road accidents annually. Sadly, majority of these people constitute the productive age and by the mere fact that they are incapacitated is a big blow to the economy.
Road crashes interfere with that. Most people who die or are injured are breadwinners,” said Aligula.
Aligula says Kenya’s road safety challenge requires priority actions in terms of the manner in which we design our roads to ensure that they are safe. “A smooth road is not always a safe road. Countries that have succeeded have done so by building transport networks that separate traffic and ensure that road signage and barriers are conducive to safe roads. We must design them so that access to the roads by both people and vehicles is safe, as opposed to the current scenario where bus stops and loading points are to be found anywhere,” he said.
Aligula proposes that drivers of public service vehicles must be given greater attention. Pedestrians must receive training on how they can safely use the roads and we must invest in trauma facilities to ensure that anyone involved in a road crash receives rapid and effective treatment during the “golden hour” to enhance their chances of surviving the consequences of road crashes.
Transport cabinet secretary lamented that road traffic crashes affect most of those in the productive age bracket in the society. “Most of the victims are productive people on their way to contribute to Kenya’s economic development and many families have been rendered destitute due to loss of their breadwinners,” he said. Speaking last week during the World Day for Remembrance of Road Traffic Crash Victims, Kamau said that many children are unable to acquire education live a decent life because their breadwinners died through road traffic crashes.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road accidents are the eighth leading cause of death globally, and the leading cause of death for young people aged between 15 and 29. The World Bank Report, 2012 indicates that the impact of road traffic crashes to Kenya’s economy is about five percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), higher than the impact on GDP of most developing countries, which is between one and three percent.
The Global status report on road safety 2013 by WHO states that over a million peopledie each year on the world’s roads, and the cost of dealing with the consequences of these road traffic crashes runs to billions of dollars. According to the report, current trends suggest thatby 2030 road traffic deaths will become the fifth leading cause of death unless urgent action is taken.
Kenya has recently experienced a series of road accidents, which have so far claimed over 3,000 lives since the beginning of this year. Kenya police estimates that by September this year, 2,211 people had died through road accidents. Out of this number 1,019 were pedestrians, 575 passengers, 211 motor cyclists, 205 drivers, 106 pillion passengers and 95 pedal cyclists.
The report notes that the highest road traffic fatality rates are in middle-income countries, particularly the African region.
Patrick Wameyo, a financial analyst says that there is need for sustainable decisive actions in policy making such as the introduction of a new driving training curriculum and a deliberate action to strip every driver who causes an accident their licence and the restoration of police order.
“Citizens have a collateral role in this whole issue and must exercise discipline at the individual level, while driving a car or traveling in one. They must begin observe the codes that guide safe driving and on so doing must stop paying bribes by avoiding being found on the wrong side by a hungry policeman. On the other hand, the Government department concerned must come up with a policy for developing an acceptable national level discipline on roads and the policing mechanism for sustaining it,” said Wameyo.
Launched in May 2011, the Decade Of Action For Road Safety 2011-2020 estimates that the economic consequences of motor vehicle crashes is over Sh43 trillion.
According to the plan, to which Kenya is a signatory, reducing road casualties and fatalities will reduce suffering, unlock growth and free resources for more productive use.
Kamau added that even though much has not been done since the signing of the declaration, Kenya is currently in the process of aligning her road safety programmes to the aspirations of the Decade of Action. “We are therefore committed to reducing the level of deaths through road traffic crashes by a reasonable margin before the end of the decade.
The ministry and NTSA will develop a reward mechanism with a ceiling of Sh10 million to reward Saccos and companies that employ best practices as a way of encouraging and motivating operators to perform even better,” said Kamau. In 2010 alone, 1.24 million people died in road accidents globally.
Kamau noted that in a bid to reduce road crashes, the Government has put in place such measures as improvement of Kenya’s road infrastructure, development of various legislations, amendment of the Traffic Act (Cap 403), enactment of the National Transport and Safety Authority Act, 2012 and establishment of NTSA.
The cabinet secretary promised to soon introduce additional legal interventions to address other factors that still contribute to road traffic crashes.
Besides other measures, the Government is set to introduce NTSA approved curriculum for driving schools, outsource driver testing services in order to bring services closer to the people and outsourcing motor vehicle inspection services.