In 2019, Africa stands as the youngest continent in the world with 60 percent of its population being under the age of 25, giving it a vibrant edge that businesses are seeking to harness today.
However, our roads have become the very drains of this opportunity. According to the Global status report on road safety launched by World Health Organisation (WHO) in December 2018, road traffic injuries are the leading killer of people aged between 5-29 across Africa.
And what of Kenya specifically? As of July 1, 2019, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) reported 1,682 fatalities, a 12 percent increase compared to the same time last year. These numbers included the lives of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
According to NTSA, most of these fatalities involve young people aged between 24 to 34 years. The explosion in the number of road accidents has had devastating effects, beyond the obvious pain and suffering caused to the individuals, families and loved ones, these accidents are also having a negative effect on the performance of our economy as so often the victims are young and productive members of Kenya’s workforce.
While stakeholders are putting up a spirited fight against road accidents, more attention and resources need to be channelled towards dealing with the ‘fatal six’ behaviours which have been identified as the leading cause of road accidents: speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, reckless driving, fatigue, driving while distracted as well as irregular or lack of car maintenance. All these behaviours have one thing in common, they are entirely preventable.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has set an ambitious target of halving the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by the year 2020. These plans are timely, not only to the younger generation, but to everyone. But how are we going to achieve this?
For a start, we need a general public to work with the law enforcers to maintain discipline on the roads. While in some circumstances these relations are characterised as strained, a leadership that expressly supports the collaboration of these two groups would be a strong antidote to help thaw these otherwise frosty engagements.
We have to get to a point as a society where the laws of the road are devotedly adhered to by both the road users and authorities. Each of us has a crucial role to play if we are serious about reducing the number of accidents. As pedestrians we must use road safety structures such as footbridges, zebra crossings and traffic lights, responsibly.
On their part, the cyclists should not underestimate the importance of wearing the reflective clothing as well as using lights at night and in bad weather. Additionally, authorities must be keen to ensure that road designs reflect the safety needs of all road users.
On the same note, we need to change our attitude as Kenyan drivers and that can only come if we consider our own mind sets while on the road. If you are clocking above the speed limit, not observing overtaking laws, trying to squeeze the last mile out of unroadworthy vehicle among such behaviours, then you are contributing towards negative consequences.]