Why community led campaigns may plug the gaps in road safety efforts in Kenya

By Mwaura Njuguna

Kenya boasts a sophisticated road system that links us to opportunities. The last twenty years have been characterised by the development of a better road network that connects urban and rural areas. Access to road transport has increased, but not without challenges.

Annually, around 4,000 lives are claimed by road crashes in Kenya, a distressing statistic that has stagnated for nearly a decade. Despite the various efforts by government agencies such as the National Transport and Safety Authority, as well as the active participation of NGOs and the private sector, road safety remains a pressing concern. 

At the core of the issue is the fractured nature of road safety efforts. While various entities strive to make an impact, their scopes often narrow down to drivers and motorcycle riders. This approach has its successes and misses. Many drivers and motorcycle riders understand road safety but, unfortunately, fatalities stubbornly retain their hold on our roads. This leaves us with a pivotal question: how do we improve our road safety initiatives?

It is time for a fresh approach- one that empowers communities to take charge of their road safety. Community-led initiatives offer a range of advantages that can potentially reshape road safety for the better. 

Community-led approaches offer a promising path forward and have the potential to tap into the collective strength and instil a sense of ownership. They provide a platform that drives from the ground up.

Education has always been the cornerstone of societal evolution, and the realm of road safety is no exception. A community-driven approach could breathe new life into road safety education. Borrowing inspiration from successful health campaigns that see communities mobilizing to educate themselves about hygiene and immunization, road safety education could follow suit. Imagine communities rallying volunteers to educate their peers about the life-altering consequences of reckless driving. The impact of a message relayed by members of one’s community resonates far deeper, urging individuals to become true champions of road safety.

Communities are also able to challenge cultural attitudes towards road safety. A community-led approach could spearhead this transformation by nurturing a sense of road consciousness that champions responsible behaviour. Visualize a village where motorcycle riders are celebrated for their cautious driving, and selected by community members for their reliability. When communities take the reins of road safety, recklessness becomes an outlier, not the norm.

Road safety is not a sole responsibility of the government; it is a collective duty. Communities that embrace road safety as a shared concern can form a formidable front in enforcement. The community becomes the watchful eyes and ears, reporting reckless drivers and riders to authorities, akin to reporting crimes. As road safety becomes acknowledged as a societal priority, careless driving will encounter collective disapproval, eroding its acceptability.

Alterations in behaviour take time. But community-led efforts can propel this process forward. When the message is accepted within a community, the journey of transformation becomes a shared goal, amplified by unity. Road safety awareness evolves into a narrative shared by all, compelling individuals to champion the change they wish to see.

Shattering complacency demands a sense of ownership. As communities embrace road safety, it transforms into a local commitment that transcends mere numbers. When this mindset becomes deep-rooted in communities, complacency fades – replaced by collective vigilance.

The road ahead is formidable, yet it also teems with potential. Adopting a community-led approach to road safety is not a mere option; it’s a necessity. Let us visualize a Kenya where villages and urban areas alike unite in a common mission – to secure lives on the roads. The destination is clear, and the journey starts with changing our views on road safety.

Mwaura is the General Manager of the Kenya Motor Sports Federation

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