| Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

Inside rising road slaughter

At least 30 people have lost their lives in accidents in Kenya over the past one month, with the common thread being speeding as the cause.

Sixteen people perished in road accidents in Western Kenya August. In two separate accidents in Kakamega County, 11 people lost their lives, five of them relatives who were travelling to Trans Nzoia County to attend a bride price ceremony.

Statistics from in the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) show that the number of accidents this year has increased, compared to the same time last year.

The number of deaths for the first five months of 2021 are 17,360. This preliminary estimate is up 20 per cent, compared to 2020, and up 16 per cent compared to 2019.

Motor vehicle deaths in May 2021 were 4,050; this preliminary estimate is up 21 per cent from May 2020 and up 19 per cent compared to May 2019.

In 2019/2020, Kakamega County featured in the top 10 most dangerous counties to drive in, with 140 fatalities from road accidents, while Kericho recorded 150 deaths.

The neighbouring Kisumu County had 107 fatalities during the same period.

The recent accidents at Kaburengu Bridge and Mukhonje trading centre on the busy Eldoret–Malaba highway had a common factor -- speeding trucks that ended up ramming other vehicles and killing the occupants.

The August 26 accident at Mukhonje claimed four lives. It happened after a fuel tanker veered off the road and ploughed into a power transformer, which ignited and minutes later, the truck burst into flames.

Seven other people were injured in the accident, which involved two other vehicles -- a Toyota Probox and a smaller fuel truck. The vehicles caught fire and were reduced to shells in the inferno.

On August 21, the driver of a Probox car and five family members were burnt beyond recognition after their vehicle burst into flames at Kaburengu bridge. 

The stretch from Chimoi to Kaburengu on the Eldoret-Malaba highway has been listed as a black spot.

The accident involved multiple vehicles -- a fuel tanker, a lorry, a saloon car, a Probox, and a pick-up truck.

All the six who died were in the Probox, which was heading to Malava from Eldoret. They were burnt beyond recognition.

Police in Bungoma said the driver of the lorry lost control of the truck and hit the saloon car, which burst into flames before landing on the bank of River Nzoia.

The saloon car rammed into the pick-up before it hit the Probox car, the police added.  

The bodies were moved from Webuye to Vihiga County Referral hospital mortuary in Mbale on Sunday evening.

Western region traffic officer Joseph Matiku described August as the darkest month so far in terms of road fatalities.

“The two accidents at Kaburengu bridge and the one at Mukhonje had something to do with careless driving due to speeding by the truck drivers,” said Mr Matiku.

The truck drivers have been accused of putting the gear in neutral for the trucks and fuel tankers on that stretch of the road, hoping to save on fuel, which they later sell to make some money.

“The freewheeling of the trucks has turned the road into a death trap because the trucks, which are loaded, become unstable and the driver cannot control them because the braking system will not work in those circumstances,” said Mr Matiku.

The Kericho-Londiani-Nakuru highway, where five people died on Sunday, is a listed black spot.

Dr Joseph Cheruiyot, the medical superintendent at the Kericho County Referral hospital said five passengers were receiving treatment.

Four people lost their lives in December last year when a Toyota Probox collided with a Nissan X-trail at Ringa near Kedowa trading centre.

Three people also lost their lives at Chepseon trading centre on the same highway when a matatu was involved in an accident.

In Nakuru, a total of 13 lives have been lost in road accidents in August alone.

Former Nominated Senator Victor Prengei lost his life on the night of August 16, after he reportedly lost control of his car before it landed in a ditch.

The most recent incident was the head-on collision involving a North Rift shuttle bound for Kimilili and a lorry headed to Nairobi. Six people, including the driver of the passenger van, died.

Mr James Mbugua, the lorry driver, recalled how he lost control of the vehicle on the evening of Wednesday, August 25 as he tried to avoid ramming into a passenger shuttle ahead of him that had stopped abruptly.

“As I approached the Shiners Boys area, the shuttle in front made a sudden stop, which forced me to apply emergency brakes. I don’t recall the events after the lorry skidded toward the oncoming traffic, I only found myself in the wreckage of the vehicle,” narrated Mr Mbugua.

Two more people died on August 30 following heavy traffic that saw motorists stranded for hours on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway. It prompted a Probox driver carrying five passengers to overlap. He tried to evade the jam at high speed and lost control of the vehicle, leading to the deaths of two occupants.

“The main problem we see with drivers is that many of them are impatient and they opt to overlap. This creates a major traffic jam and the Kenyan driver seems not ready to learn,” said Naivasha police division boss Samuel Waweru.

On August 18, residents of Gilgil town woke up to a bloody scene on the road, with personal effects scattered all over after a vehicle collided with a trailer, killing three on the spot.

Careless overtaking has also raised concern. Gilgil OCPD John Ondit reported that one of the vehicles was trying to overtake when they collided.

Another motorist hit and killed a boda in Karai, Naivasha, the same day.

Mr Joseph Mutungi the Kipkelion East sub-county police commander said the accidents were caused by speeding motorists.

"It is important that motorists observe road safety rules to avoid the carnage on our roads,” said Mr Mutungi.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) has been asked to list that part of the road as a black spot and erect bumps and road signs to warn motorists.

 By Benson Amadala, Vitalis Kimutai and Marvin Mbugua

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