We must strive to end impunity on roads

NTSA Roadblock

A roadblock mounted by traffic police officers in conjunction with the National Transport and Safety Authority along Langata Road, Nairobi.

Photo credit: Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • A policeman looking the other way and allowing any offence on the roads hurts innocent and law-abiding drivers and other road users.

Thousands of Kenyans have had their lives cut short by accidents, while others have been left with permanent scars. Show me a Kenyan who doesn't have a horror story to tell about the terrible things that happen on our roads.

For the families of the victims, the losses are too much to bear and in most cases, life will never be the same again. For example, who qualifies to be a driver in Kenya? The answer is simply anyone, as long as they can afford a bribe.

We have seen driving schools cited for 'selling' licences to people who have not taken a driving course. This new driver is expected to operate a motor vehicle on our roads even though he or she doesn't have the basic skills needed to operate a vehicle.

In the US, anyone who wants to get a commercial driver's licence has to pass a number of physical and health tests before they are allowed to go to class for their CDL.

These courses take months to complete, and even after training, a new driver must be assigned to a qualified driver for a period of time. This CDL is rarely obtained by an unqualified driver. Most commercial vehicles are equipped with cameras and computers to monitor driver behaviour.

For example, after driving a truck for a certain number of hours, a driver must take a mandatory rest before continuing. These breaks are monitored, as is the driver's behaviour on the road.

These drivers, who also include drivers of public service vehicles, are subject to random drug tests, with offenders receiving tickets or, in the worst case, having their licence suspended or even revoked.

These citations affect drivers by taking away points from their driving licences and sometimes their employers' bonuses. Insurance companies have access to drivers' records, and your insurance premium is affected by your driving habits. Careless and dangerous drivers have no place in the USA.

Back in Kenya, a policeman will look the other way and allow any offence. This hurts innocent and law-abiding drivers and other road users.

The number of cars that should not be on the road is one of the reasons why hardly a day goes by without a fatality. If the traffic police did their job and did it well, if the political class didn't interfere in the prosecution of traffic offenders, if technology was used to manage traffic, and if the driving course was revised and licences were only issued to those who qualified, we would save a lot of lives.

- Joe Mungai, Washington State, USA