The mere mention of the name Salgaa sends chills down the spine of many motorists and travellers who frequently use the busy Nakuru-Eldoret highway.
The name conjures up images of mangled vehicles and lost lives due to the many road accidents that have occurred on the Ngata-Sobea-Salgaa-Sachangwan stretch of the highway, which is part of the Northern Corridor.
The 21km stretch is perhaps the most notorious black spot in the country, judging by the number of road accidents that have happened on it.
The crashes prompted the government to install concrete barriers in the middle of the road, finally taming the road carnage on that stretch.
The barriers were erected in 2018 for Sh500 million and separate lanes of traffic. They have drastically reduced motor vehicle crashes on the stretch between Salgaa and Sachangwan.
Six-lane dual carriageway
There are also plans to upgrade the entire Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit road and make it a six-lane dual carriageway under a public-private partnership.
But even after road crashes in the Salgaa blackspot subsided, residents still face the nightmare of careless driving and pedestrians being knocked down in hit-and-run accidents.
Police and the National Transport and Safety Authority have blamed most of the accidents on speeding, careless overtaking and free-wheeling, especially by truck drivers.
As we approach the festive season, administrators and road safety stakeholders warn that accidents on the route may increase.
“The landscape in the Ngata-Sobea-Salgaa stretch is relatively flat. This kind of terrain has been noted to give road users easy time driving as the roads are flat and straight, making it easier to lose concentration. A majority of drivers using this road are culprits for speeding and overtaking,” said Charles Ombati, a first responder to crash scenes on the route.
Accidents at night
“Most of the accidents occur at night and are attributed to human error - speeding and overtaking. Motorists using the route this festive season must be cautious to save lives.”
Design flaws, vandalism on road signs and reckless driving have made the road that connects the capital Nairobi to Western Kenya a death trap.
In the past six months alone at least 15 people have died in road crashes on the stretch and dozens injured.
Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya has called on motorists using the busy Northern Corridor highway to observe road safety rules especially as the festive season sets in.
He said more traffic police officers would be deployed to major roads, but cautioned motorists to observe basic traffic rules.
“I urge all motorists and road users to exercise extra vigilance as the festive period sets in. Every life on our roads counts and must be protected at all costs. We have several accident black spots along the road and motorists must be cautious,” Mr Natembeya told the Nation.
He noted that the holiday season comes with more travellers and so some public service vehicles take advantage of the situation to overload and speed to increase their profits and thus endangering lives.
He warned that traffic police officers will be vigilant and will arrest drivers who break traffic rules.
Pedestrians are also knocked down in hit-and-run accidents on the Ngata-Sobea-Salgaa-Sachangwan stretch. In the past two months, at least six lives have been lost on that stretch.
Residents last week appealed to the Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) to erect bumps and take other measures to safeguard the lives of residents.
Mr Ben Omwandho, the chairman of Green Estate in Ngata, said accidents involving pedestrians happen weekly.
"We want the government to erect speed bumps and other crucial road signs on the stretch to reduce accidents and prevent deaths. We have lost very many lives since the year began," he said.
He blames most of the accidents on speeding.
His sentiments were echoed by Mr Steve Rono, a youth leader, who said a footbridge and speed bumps would significantly reduce accidents.
“From January this year, we have lost a lot of people here. We can't continue losing more lives. We want the relevant authorities to act immediately," he said.
The Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret highway, the most important road to Western Kenya and the artery that connects Kenya and the landlocked countries of Uganda, Southern Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi, is among the most dangerous in the region.
The road is used for transporting most of the west-bound cargo from the port of Mombasa and Nairobi.
Accident black spots dotting the Nairobi-Nakuru highway include Karai, where 40 people perished in 2017, Kinungi, Mbaruk, Gilgil and St Mary’s.
Others are the Gilgil-Nakuru-Kasambara-Kikopey stretch, Timboroa and the Makutano junction-Burnt Forest section.