BOI: Road carnage a major threat to economy

BOI: Road carnage a major threat to economy

One of the major festive seasons across the globe is here with us. Meanwhile, road accidents being reported more rapidly and in a relatively widespread scope in Kenya is anybody’s worry. The massive commuting by most locals from the urban centres to their villages to meet their kin, is not a strange thing.

Nonetheless, the fact that we have had it happening in the past and the government assuredly promising a total turn-around execution strategy to bring to an end to this menace is largely a panacea, only to have those plans prove transient and to leave the citizenry with a lot to inevitably worry about and ponder on whether there will ever be a lasting solution.

The very recent ugly, deeply saddening and devastating scenarios of the runaway oil tanker that slammed into vehicles bursting into flames along Nairobi-Nakuru Highway a fortnight ago causing deaths and major injuries and the accidents that occurred on the Nairobi-Mombasa Highway, are full confirmation of how our roads still pose a great threat to the society with the stabilisation seemingly imminently elusive.

Worth noting, road accidents have been a common feature to many countries both developed and those in low-income status. In April 2014, this was a topic of discussion at the United Nations’ General Assembly where it was noted that deaths and injuries posed a serious threat to global health and had a negative impact on social and economic progress, as well as sustainable development. In this regard therefore, much as we may condemn the recurring sad incidences on the roads, it is a global predicament whose occurrence might never be totally suppressed especially while conceding to some of the causes related to human error.

Nevertheless, there is no level of international partnerships with sophisticated agencies like the World Health Organizations (WHO) for capacity, information sharing and technology support that shall bear fruits if the local citizens in collaboration with national governmental and non-governmental authorities shall not make deliberate efforts to end this inherent plight of our time.

The cost of road accidents which happen without notice nor caveat, not only evoke unbearable economic burdens to the victims and their families but also pose strain to the economy through lost productivity and provision of all resource needs for healthcare. The cost of road crash injuries has been in the past estimated at roughly 1% of the Gross National Product (GNP) in low income countries and 1.5% in the middle-income countries and 2% in high income countries. One interesting fact however, is that these serious humanitarian and economic impacts can be curbed and avoided.

According to WHO, between 3,000 and 13,000 Kenyans loose their lives in road traffic crashes every year. In this regard, the efforts by the NTSA to curb the number of accidents being reported on the roads should be appreciated by all means. This is yet to yield satisfactory results to guarantee it positive sentiments to its work, a reason to relentlessly explore further means to restore sanity on the roads.

This is of course amidst the reports by WHO in October last year that ranked Kenya among the top in the globe faced with high deaths from road carnage alongside Tanzania and Rwanda with respectively 29.1, 32.9 and 32.1 deaths per 100,000 people.  In 2014, 2,907 lives were lost through road carnage a drop from 3,318 in 2013, though significantly rose in 2015. A total of 1,602 lives were lost in the first half of 2016 with a rise of 89 noted from last year’s report of the same time.

It certainly unclear what reports we anticipate as we close the year from the Authority led by Director General Francis Meja who recently took pride in low road carnage record in November this year, especially as we cruise through this Christmas season.

Road accidents happen within split seconds but the resulting consequences are capable of throwing the victims and their families into not only imperceptible levels of mental torture but also absolute penury changing their lives forever. According to the report, “the Global Status on Road Safety” released in late 2015, road accidents are now the leading cause of deaths among 15 to 29 year olds globally which in Kenya stretches to 35 years. It is sad since this are the most productive people and young breadwinners whose deaths leave their young families with nowhere to turn to. Sadly, the education sector is also affected due to an increased school dropout as a result of this problem.

A recent study revealed that 25% of road crash survivors must be treated in hospitals as in-patients, whereas 32% are forced to take sick leave from work of up to three months and 29% are inevitably forced to stay away from work for more than three months. With these unfathomable and unbearable difficulties, there is looming plethora of legal implications, economic burdens on the dependents and kin, psychological trauma and consequences and home and vehicle adaptations on the side of the victims seriously injured. The human and socio-economic consequences here are gross and will range from the hospitalization to long term care and production and welfare loss.

What then, remains the fix to this persistent cold-blooded and ruthless menace? Road users certainly, more often than not, hold the solution. For instance the motorcyclists who according to reports 637 passed on in 2015 and 553 in 2014, have a responsibility to adhere to stipulated traffic rules. A past study by WHO at the Naivasha Hospital revealed that 36% of patients presented to the emergency department because of a road traffic crash were motorcyclists and 75%of those patients admitted to not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. Helmet wearing among motorcyclists is as low as 3% whereas this is what could save some lives lost due to head injuries.

Besides the motorists refraining from the perennial causes of accidents such as drunk driving, careless driving, speeding, overloading, mechanical problems that emanate from failure to service vehicles often and corruption, the same motorists should be deliberate in taking prudent decisions to save lives, they should be sure to obey the traffic rules and signs.

A genuine call by the ambulance providers, the Emergency Medical Services, to the on-lookers during accident incidences is worth noting too. A scenario dangerous to bystanders as that experienced in Naivasha recently of smoldering cars stands to cause more harm than good when they sought to save the victims from the wreckage oblivious of their safety. In this regard, it could be imperative for the NTSA in collaboration with Red Cross  to initiate a stronger sensitization to the public on how to behave during road crashes to prevent further injuries in the future in such scenarios.

As we give credit to the government to the incredible steps it has made since the famous Michuki Rules to the recent issuance of the new generation driving licenses electronically connected to the insurers by the NTSA, the authorities need to be proactive in taking measures to reduce accidents on our roads. The ongoing rectification of the road bumps across the country is just but an aftermath reaction by the government from the fatal accident at Kinungi, Naivasha on 10th December 2016.

The question here is, for how long will the government keep reacting to situations instead of acting in advance to prevent the occurrence of the accidents? This time it could be road bumps but tomorrow a different causal could be in store. Let the government play its role through not only following through the obedience of the policies and rules in place but also establishing a proactive monitoring system to see to it that imminent dangers on roads do not succeed to claim lives.

The writer is a Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist. Email: dboi@iasr.co.ke