Every passing December day seems to begin with an update of a ‘grisly’ accident and end with another, if not others, of the same kind.
Sadly, it is not a one-off occurrence; it’s a perennial problem. It is even becoming something of a norm that December is the month most souls perish due to road carnage.
So what’s about December that makes it the deadliest month and how can we stay safe? Let’s explore.
By default, most Kenyans take a break from their yearly toils to be with family and friends in December. Most travel upcountry to reunite with long lost relatives for Christmas.
Consequently, roads are busiest during this time. Matatus and buses are packed to the brim and any mistake results in maximum casualties.
Commuter companies make a killing during the festive season and immediately after. Hence, drivers are pressured to make maximum return trips to maximise on profits.
This leads to overspeeding as drivers are in a frenzy to meet targets. It is common knowledge that it is more difficult to control an overspeeding vehicle than one that is not.
A stray animal, drunk person or even an unseen pothole is enough to send the vehicle rolling or even worse, slamming onto oncoming traffic.
Unfortunately, the human body is not wired to work endlessly. We need periodical breaks to rest and recover. Commuter company bosses seem to forget this vital fact.
A tired a driver is a risk to himself, his passengers and other road users. His judgement ability and alertness are greatly impaired.
Vehicles need to be checked and repaired periodically for optimal performance. Oil needs to be changed, worn out parts needs to be replaced, etc.
Unfortunately, vehicle owners tend to prioritize profitability at the expense of safety. Commuter vehicle crews are often forced to flout service schedules because it is considered a waste of time and money.
To them the motto seems to be, “if it is moving, it is fine.” Unserviced vehicle are prone to malfunction (without notice) and are therefore more likely to cause accidents.
Corruption is touted as the mother of all evils, and rightly so. Local and international watchdogs often mention Kenya Policemen as being the most corrupt regionally and internationally.
It would be unfair to say that police are solely responsible in this evil. It is an open secret that the police work in cahoots with public service vehicle stakeholders to subvert the law.
Corruption has far-reaching consequences, and road carnage is one of them.
Traffic police are tasked with ensuring drivers adhere to the traffic rules and vehicles meet local safety standards.
Drivers and conductors regularly hand out a specific amount of cash to police, whether the vehicle they are driving meets all legal and safety requirements or not.
In exchange, police turn a blind eye on unroadworthy vehicles or those that openly flout traffic rules.
Being the month of festivities, alcohol imbibing is unrestricted. Most people are on leave during this time and they therefore don’t have to worry about being sober for work the following day.
Alcohol is known to impair judgement, coordination and alertness. Unfortunately, some drunk persons get behind the wheel under the assumption that they are experienced and will therefore drive safely.
Cases of drunk drivers ramming into the back of stationary vehicles or flying off the road at bends are all too common.
In the next article we explore what can be done to minimize road accidents and let December be a month of merry-making and not hospital visitations and funerals.