By Stephen Macharia
The National Transport and Road Safety Authority (NTSA) is embarking on a data-driven revolution to stem the grim tide of road tragedies. It is a mission born of necessity – year after year, the nation bears a sorrowful burden – a staggering 4,000 lives claimed by road crashes. Now, NTSA is wielding the power of information to script a safer, brighter future on the roads.
Nairobi Nakuru, Machakos, and Kiambu Counties bear the weight of Kenya’s road crash fatalities, accounting for 36% of the nation’s total fatalities across its 47 counties.
“Fatal crashes are highly concentrated in time. About 26% of crashes in Nairobi (30% of crashes for the whole country) are concentrated between 19:00 and 22:00. These hours are after the main rush hour period when congestion tends to decrease —allowing for higher speeds. During these later hours lack of visibility and alcohol can play an important role,” NTSA says in a report.
NTSA seeks to bring a seismic shift to the world of road safety. Currently, the agency relies on manually geolocated police data to identify high-risk road corridors. These corridors serve as the epicentres of their efforts to drastically reduce fatalities.
“Based on video data collected at 38 blackspot locations in Nairobi, only 24% of pedestrians use the designated crosswalk when it is available. Pedestrians may not use crosswalks because drivers may not stop at these locations, making them unsafe for crossing.
Additionally, the data show that while helmet use is high among drivers (82%), only 26% of pillion passengers wear a helmet even though helmets are 41% effective at preventing death for passengers and reducing the risk of injury by 69%. The presence of a helmet alone is not necessarily enough; ensuring helmets are of adequate quality and properly worn is important for their effectiveness,” says a report by NTSA.
To reverse the perilous trend, NTSA has introduced a transformative initiative: the Development of the National Road Safety Policy 2023-2027. This policy sets new governance standards and paves the way for Kenya to align its road safety measures with international commitments, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Second United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030.
In the revamped setup, each of Kenya’s 47 counties will house a dedicated County Transport and Safety Committee. These committees will be entrusted with the crucial task of crafting their County Road Safety Action Plans.
The drive for safer roads doesn’t stop there. Road safety initiatives will be seamlessly woven into the fabric of government departments and agencies, making it a key consideration in policy development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation across all spheres.
Recognizing the profound influence of the private sector on the roads, NTSA will collaborate closely with private companies to develop road safety guidelines. This collaboration will serve as a cornerstone for the sustainable promotion of road safety interventions.
NTSA is not only counting on the private sector but also reaching out to influential personalities from various fields. These road safety ambassadors will amplify visibility, communication, and advocacy on road safety issues.
For the weary long-distance truck drivers who traverse Kenya’s vast landscapes, there is a ray of hope. A structured infrastructure plan will be unveiled, featuring roadside stations and amenities designed to minimize fatigue-related road incidents. This initiative includes the development of a National Roadside Stations and Amenities Policy. It creates much-needed rest areas and parking facilities.
“Success will require binding partnerships between all road safety actors— communities, pedestrians, drivers, passengers and the myriad of agencies, businesses, and other interests—all engaged in many ways that seek to improve the safety of Kenyan roads and streets,” the proposed draft policy reads in part.
To ensure a sustainable road safety future, the NTSA proposes allocating a minimum of 10% of road development and improvement funding for road safety initiatives. This approach extends to development partners and financing institutions, who will be encouraged to dedicate a similar portion of funds to road safety, both nationally and at the county level.
As the engine of this ambitious journey, the fuel levy allocation for road safety programs will be increased to 10%, fortifying the financial backbone of road safety initiatives.
Violators of traffic rules, beware. Administrative and legal amendments are in the works to establish a framework for traffic fines and penalties, serving as a robust pillar of support for road safety programs.
This plan aims to reinvent approaches to safety, safeguarding the lives of Kenyans as they travel. It promises a brighter, safer future for all of us.