On the morning of October 10 in Kenya, a bus driver lost control of his unlicensed vehicle, swerved off the road and crashed. Some 70 people were in the overcrowded bus at the time, of which 55 died. Several of the fatalities were children and many of the survivors were taken to the hospital with grave injuries. Since then, very little information has trickled through the news system, with officials only being able to confirm that the driver lost control of the vehicle, and that it rolled several times after having left the road. The reason for the loss of control is unknown at this time. However, even with this sparse information, the Director of Public Prosecutions has determined to punish all those who are responsible (even indirectly) for the crash, according to All Africa.
According to the Washington Post, Mr. Obonyo—a survivor of the crash—told AP that “I felt the bus swerve from one side to the other and then I found myself in the middle of nowhere…There was a body near me and people were being thrown out of the bus, flying out of it like airplanes, and where we were thrown that was it. … I am only able to say that God saved me and I am truly thankful.”
In 2003, the Automobile Association of Kenya stated that the country had some of the most dangerous roads in the world. Even with this early warning, thousands of people continue to die every year in accidents like the one that occurred on October 10. According to Standard Media, Traffic Commandant Samuel Kimaru indicated after the crash that 2,411 people have died this year alone in automobile accidents or crashes and over 3,500 have been injured.
Kenya has attempted to curb vehicle-related deaths through various (but ineffective) laws. For example, occupants are required to wear seatbelts, and only those who have reached the age of 18 can legally drive. However, the speed limit out of town is still 110 miles an hour and children are neither required to have proper seating nor to sit in the back, according to Rhino Car Hire’s list of driving points.
A huge part of the problem lies in the public’s apparent lack of interest in safety. For example, according to Rhino Car Hire, although it is required to wear seatbelts most Kenyans do not. Taking unnecessary risks, like traveling at night in overcrowded buses, or driving over 100 miles per hour down less than adequate roads are also partially responsible for Kenya’s overwhelming accident rates.
In addition, All Africa claims that highways simply drop off with no road left to go on. These highways, pot holes and other issues plague the road ways, and the money that is given for crucial maintenance is simply kept by corrupt officials.
The Kenyan government would do well to better enforce its driving laws and policies. Buses that are not licensed to drive at night should be impounded if caught, and drivers caught driving recklessly and violating the law ought to be fined. Public officials that allow for violations of road safety laws should be reprimanded and all officers and government officials should be educated on the laws and on the importance of those laws. In addition, a thorough investigation of corrupt officials is needed. If officials are keeping money meant for the vital improvement of infrastructure or are taking bribes in exchange for the allowance of illegal behaviour, they need to be held accountable for their actions and removed from their positions. The roads of Kenya simply cannot be safely maintained if the current status quo endures.
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