Tough talking will not help see an end to road carnage
12 November 2013, 15:05
It is close to three months now since the tragic accident that killed close to 50 people in Ntulele, Narok. A month later, another grisly accident killed all occupants of a 14-seater matatu on the same road. A few days ago, a road accident occurred in Mutindwa where we lost twelve innocent lives. Two days ago, another grisly accident claimed the lives of more Kenyans in Sachangwan. A city bus ran over by-standers in Githurai a few months back. I could go on and on. The list is long. The casualties are many. Road carnage seems to have become an everyday thing in our country.
When the Ntulele accident occurred, several leaders and top-ranking government officials came out talking tough about how we need to be vigilant on our roads, how the people that own and operate these bus companies need to be more responsible. I remember the President of this country, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta coming out to state that this would not be tolerated and that the government would revoke licenses of all companies that were complacent.
Too bad, because soon after his statements, the carnage goes on unabated. We hear of blame games every day. A government arm blaming the other, citizens blaming the government, operators blaming their crew, passengers blaming the operators and so on. It seems like the norm now. We wait for a road accident to happen. Kenyans die, we start issuing condolence messages to the bereaved then we revoke licenses of the bus and matatu companies involved, or threaten to do it and life goes on until the next accident happens and we do this all over again.
We do not need Kenyans to perish in road accidents for us to act. We do not need bus and matatu drivers to engage in dangerous driving mannerisms for us to start issuing threats to them. We cannot let the statistics keep growing unchecked. Discipline is key. Much as we may blame drivers and the government for not coming down hard on these drivers and operators that have no value for human life, we, the other citizens and passengers in these matatus and buses have a huge role to play. Perhaps, though, it is our culture. That is why in our full view, traffic police officers receive bribes from matatu crew like it is no big deal and we just say no word against it. These officers need to instil some discipline in their line of work. They need to see value for human life.
When they let a vehicle that is overloaded go for as little as fifty shillings of a bribe, it is blood chilling. Sometimes it is revolting to imagine how some of them live with the knowledge that what they do is wrong yet they go about it so calmly and comfortably like it is normal.
Let us not only speak out against road carnage and impunity on our roads but also act on it. We should not let our friends, families’ relatives and fellow countrymen continue being part of the ever growing statistics on our roads. The silence and the lack of action is killing us. Let us have the government do more for its citizens.
The operators who go about their business like there are no laws that govern us need to be made to realize that human life is important. That they cannot continue operating like this. Our leaders need to go slow on the heavy words and rhetoric and come down hard on these careless people on our roads. The festive season is approaching fast. This season often sees an increase in lawlessness on our roads. Massive loss of life is almost always a feature of the festive season. Let us act!
Pancras Mutuma is a Public Relations Consultant based in Nairobi.
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