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Kenya’s rising toll of road carnage dampens festive mood   

By Christine Lagat NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya has in the last few days grappled with an unprecedented spike in road accidents that have claimed dozens of lives while putting ice on the festive season whose hallmark is merry-making and reunion.

The east African Nation is still reeling from the effects of carnage on major highways that have been blamed on reckless driving, lethargic policing and ignorance among commuters.

So far, more than 150 people have perished through road accidents in Kenya in the last fortnight, triggering a heated debate on who is to blame.

The busy highway connecting Kenya’s capital Nairobi to western parts of the country has been the epicenter of accidents that have claimed 34 people including six artists in the past week.

During the 54th Independence Day celebrations on Dec. 12, 17 people, including members of the same family, died when 13 vehicles were involved in a head-on collision. President Uhuru Kenyatta, in his address to the nation during Independence Day celebrations, urged motorists to exercise caution during the festive season and promised tough action from the state in order to reduce fatalities on the roads.

Over the past weekend, Kenya recorded 23 deaths as a result of road accidents that occurred in different parts of the country.

Policymakers, experts and industry players are united in their call for improved traffic management through enforcement of laws, commuter education, retraining of drivers in order to reduce carnage on the highways.

  Kenyan acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i [right] and Kenyan Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development James Macharia address the press in Nairobi. Kenya will implement stringent regulations to curb road carnage that reached a peak this month, officials said on Tuesday. XINHUA PHOTO - CHARLES ONYANGO

Francis Meja, the director general of the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), blamed speeding, drunk driving and poor signage as some of the leading causes of accidents.

Speaking during a live television interview over the weekend, Meja said the transport regulator has come up with a code of conduct that every motorist and pedestrian should follow in order to prevent accidents along major highways.

“We are concerned by the rising toll of deaths on our highways that is mostly attributed to human error and have come up with new and more stringent regulations to help deal with this challenge,” said Meja.

Kenya records an average of 3,000 deaths from road accidents every year despite investments in robust campaigns and existence of progressive traffic rules.

Meja clarified that the transport regulator has invested heavily in patrol cars, personnel and digital cameras to help nab and prosecute motorists flouting traffic rules.

“On our part, we are committed to enforce traffic rules to the letter but sections of public service vehicle owners have undermined efforts to restore sanity on the roads by employing untrained drivers,” Meja said.

The recent spike in road accidents has triggered an outcry from Kenyans while re-igniting new debate on viable measures that should be adapted.

Joe Otin, a Nairobi-based digital marketing professional, challenged the transport regulator to invest in digital technology and public awareness targeting motorists and pedestrians.

Meanwhile, the country’s lawmakers have intensified the call for redesigning major highways with dangerous “black spots.”

Susan Kihika, the senator for Nakuru County, which has borne the brunt of the recent carnage on the roads, said construction of a dual carriage way at the “black spots” or redesigning of highways could be a giant step in the quest to reduce fatal accidents.



Kenya says to curb road carnage before festive season

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya will implement stringent regulations to curb road carnage that reached a peak this month, officials said on Tuesday.

James Macharia, Cabinet Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure, said the government will intensify policing at accident blackspots and crack down on errant motorists this festive season.

“We have mapped the blackspots in major highways especially the northern corridor from Mombasa to the Ugandan border with a view to put adequate measures and make them safer,” said Macharia.

He spoke to reporters in Nairobi in the wake of a rising toll of road accidents in the country that have so far claimed 180 lives since the start of December.

Macharia decried the untimely loss of lives along the roads due to gross violation of traffic rules by private motorists and owners of public service vehicles.

“We have directed the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to crack down on public service vehicles who flout traffic rules. Soon, we are rolling out the smart driving license to help monitor behavior of drivers on our roads,” Macharia told reporters.

Kenya is working on short and long-term plans to find solutions to road accidents that claim an estimated 3,000 people every year. The accidents usually peak around major holidays as people travel upcountry for celebrations.

Macharia said the government will invest in additional speed bumps, bridges and pedestrian paths along major highways to prevent fatal accidents.

“The medium to long-term measures that we are exploring in order to minimize road accidents include construction of dual carriage way, redesign of highways and establishment of points where drivers can check temperatures of brakes,” said Macharia.


Further 23 die in road accident in Kenya in past two days

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- At least 23 people have been confirmed dead and several others injured in two separate road accidents in Kenya over the weekend.

Thirteen people died in an accident on Sunday evening along the Thika-Garissa road in central Kenya. The other accident, along Nakuru-Eldoret highway in northwest Kenya, killed 10 people on Saturday night.

Central Regional Police Commander Gideon Amalla told Xinhua on Monday that the 8.30 p.m. Thika accident involved a 14-seat minibus (matatu) and a truck.

“The matatu of Kinatwa Sacco was from Nairobi direction heading to Kitui (eastern Kenya). Upon reaching Kilimambogo area while trying to avoid a head-on collision with unknown motorcycle rammed head on with an oncoming lorry which was from opposite direction,” Kibunja said.

“As a result the matatu driver and 10 passengers died on the spot,” he said, noting that three others died while undergoing treatment in hospital.

The police commander said the number of fatalities could rise as some of the injured were in critical condition.

The accident caused a major traffic snarl-up as police and rescue teams cleared the scene.

The accident on Saturday also involved a 14-seat matatu; 10 people died and three others were injured after the minibus collided with two trucks along the Nakuru-Eldoret highway in Makutano area.

Rift Valley Traffic Enforcement Officer Zero Arome said the accident involved a Nissan matatu heading to Eldoret and two trucks heading to Mombasa from the Malaba border.

“The Nissan matatu heading to Eldoret lost control after a tire burst before it collided with an oncoming truck. It swerved and hit a second truck,” Arome said.

According to the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) about 150 people had died in road accidents between Dec. 1 and 13.

According to preliminary investigations, the causes of these crashes included speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

More than 30 people died on Dec. 12 after a crash involving 15 vehicles in Sachang’wan along the busy Nakuru-Edlroet highway.

The night before, a family of 19 died in another crash in Bungoma in western Kenya.

On Dec. 9, seven musicians from the popular Kenene international band, a well-known Kalenjin music group, died in an accident along Nakuru-Eldoret highway.

On the same day, 23 people died while several others were injured in another accident along the Marigat-Loruk road in Tiaty, Baringo County.

The NTSA said in collaboration with traffic police they have mapped at least 15 “black spots” along major highways nationwide where motorists are warned to be careful during the festive season.

The authorities said they have beefed up patrol teams to curb rogue motorists.

Road accidents are common during festive season as thousands of people travel up country for holiday celebrations.

An estimated 3,000 Kenyans die in road accidents annually, according to the NTSA.



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