Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen has ordered a crackdown on private vehicles operating as public service vehicles.
Mr Murkomen instructed the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to begin the crackdown on Friday, December 1, 2023.
According to the CS, this is part of ongoing efforts to streamline operations and bring order to the public transport sector.
“I have this afternoon (Thursday) directed NTSA in collaboration with the National Police Service to conduct a nationwide crackdown on illegal Public Transport Vehicles (PSVs) with immediate effect,” said CS Murkomen.
He singled out the Toyota Sienta, Probox, Voxy and Sienna as the vehicles most commonly used to transport passengers.
He was speaking during the Matatu Owners Association National Delegates Council meeting at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre. According to the CS, some motorists have developed a tendency to operate as PSVs without authorisation.
He said the directive seeks to address the increasing cases of private vehicles being illegally converted into PSVs without complying with the mandatory regulations and compliance measures for public transport, which include payment of inspection fees and all other necessary taxes.
At the same time, he cautioned Kenyans against boarding vehicles that are not PSVs, saying it is their lives they are risking. He said that private vehicles should also be registered with the Matatu Owners Association (MOA) before being used as PSVs.
The CS also warned private vehicle owners, especially revellers, noting that they are responsible for the highest number of accidents on Kenyan roads compared to PSVs.
"Most of the accidents recorded in the country happen on weekends. The majority are the young people who drink from Friday to Monday morning," he said.
According to the NTSA's latest figures on accidents on Kenya's roads, at least 3,760 people lost their lives in road crashes between January and October 15. Highly urbanised counties reported higher fatality rates, said NTSA Director General George Ngao.
Motorcyclists recorded the highest number of incidents, accounting for 1,213 deaths due to disregard of traffic laws.
Thika Road and the Nairobi-Naivasha Highway recorded the highest number of road fatalities last year, according to a report by NTSA.
The two have overtaken the Outering Road and the Northern Bypass as Kenya's deadliest roads, with more than 4,000 road users losing their lives annually in the country.
According to data from the NTSA, the 50-kilometre Thika Highway recorded 155 deaths across Nairobi and Kiambu counties it crosses, followed by the Nairobi-Naivasha Highway with 95 deaths.
Other roads with a high number of fatalities were Outering, which recorded 54 fatalities, the same as the Mombasa-Nairobi Highway, while the Nakuru-Eldoret Highway recorded 50 deaths, the Eastern Bypass 42, the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway 40 and the Matuu-Thika Highway 36. The Waiyaki Way accounted for 29 of the 4,690 deaths recorded on Kenya's roads last year, while the Northern Bypass contributed 26 fatalities.
The NTSA report shows that Nairobi, Kiambu, Nakuru and Machakos counties recorded 1,454 deaths, accounting for 36 per cent of the deaths recorded last year. Nairobi contributed 474 fatalities last year, followed by Kiambu with 440, Nakuru 326 and Machakos with 214.
The DG said many crashes occur on the Northern Corridor, which accounts for the high percentage of fatalities. According to the NTSA, counties along the Northern Corridor from Mombasa to Malaba account for 40 per cent of the 4,000 lives lost on Kenya's roads each year.
As Kenyans prepare for the festive season, the NTSA said it has embarked on a nationwide road safety awareness campaign.
Mr Njao called for caution on the roads and urged motorists to obey all traffic rules to curb the rising number of accidents and deaths on Kenyan roads.
Road safety remains a critical issue worldwide, with the World Health Organization estimating that more than 1.35 million people die in road accidents each year.
This toll makes road accidents the leading cause of death among people aged 5-29 years and places a significant socio-economic burden on societies worldwide.