MISSUE NO. 3627 

July 05 - 11, 2013


 Coastweek   Kenya

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Almost Every Matatu Accident Was Due
To Speed Rather Than Anything Else

As Kachumbari says, a good thing must be allowed
to continue irrespective of the name it has

Coastweek -- Driving discipline in Kenya leaves a lot to be desired. Many people still remember the changes that were brought about by the so called Michuki rules, writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.

These were initially aimed at taming the matatu menace.

The main thrust of the exercise was to get the matatus to obey traffic rules.

The method was simple.

First the driver and tout had to be in uniform.

This simple requirement was to achieve a twofold effect.

It would make the vehicle into an official place and then also change the mindset of the two people concerned, they would now draw a sense of pride from their job and want to be seen to be important and that was to make them think compliance.

The second action was that the drivers and matatu touts had to obtain security clearance certificates from the Special Branch at the police service as there was this suspicion that some were involved in criminal activities.

The third action was to hold passengers liable in the event that the matatu was over crowded.

The rule was that matatus had to be cleared to carry a specific number of passengers.

Once that was done the onus was on both the driver and the passengers to observe this rule and both would be punished for any infringement.

The fourth requirement was that the matatus had to operate on clearly defined routes.

To this end, all matatus were required to have a yellow discontinuous line around the middle of the vehicle and also have the licensed route printed on the vehicle.

This way the police would be able to tell a matatu from a distance and they could also quickly check whether the vehicle was on its approved route.

The first four items were meant to change the mindset of the passengers as well as instill discipline to the operators and owners.

The next two items of the Michuki Rules were more safety critical.

The first safety critical item was that each matatu had to install safety belts for all passengers and then passengers were expected to wear them on pain of a fine should they be found not having belted up during travel.

This requirement raised a lot of hue and cry from the operators citing cost and payback.

They also talked about the cost of maintenance and the practicality of fitting and using them.

Passengers were equally apprehensive arguing that requiring a passenger to belt up would slow down the journey times.

The view was that should a passenger be travelling between stops a short distance apart then the time wasted belting up was not necessary.

Also where a passenger sitting by a window on a three passenger bench seat had to get out then two other passengers would have to unbelt, get off the seat and then belt up again before the matatu would be allowed to move.

The second safety critical item was the requirement that each public service vehicle had to install a speed governor.

This would ensure that the vehicle could only operate at a maximum of eighty kilometres an hour.

This was the law that was in operation at the time and the action was intended to reduce the high death rate that had permeated the road accident statistics in Kenya.

Almost every accident was fatal due to speed rather than anything else.

The two requirements created much reported speculation that certain people in government were responsible for this requirement as they stood to gain from the sale of seatbelts and speed governors.

The papers went as far as posturing that relatives of the Minister had formed companies to import the material and that they were in the high seas long before the rules were passed.

The key thing however, was that the rules were implemented and there was a drastic reduction in
the number of accidents as well as the number of fatalities.

Discipline in the matatu business became the norm and slowly the rest of the driving population started to follow suit.

However, the move of late Michuki to another Ministry resulted in the end of the transformation
as the Minister that followed did not have the guts to continue the purge.

It was also the case of wanting to come up with something else that could be stamped with their own name.

As Kachumbari says, a good thing must be allowed to continue irrespective of the name it has.


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