OPINIONPeople Daily

Why I blame police for nurturing riders’ impunity

Njonjo Kihuria

December had the worst, horrendous and criminal bloodletting on our roads in the recent past. A record number of lives was lost to accidents in a short span. Sadly, most of the accidents witnessed in December were attributed to human error and irrational judgement by some road users.

Had road users been keener, many of them could have been avoided. However, as Kenyans point an accusing finger at motorists—most of whom are to blame—law enforcement agencies share a sizeable share of the blame for abdicating their mandate of educating road users, ensuring road sanity and proactively acting to stop road carnage, to engage in the cancerous habit of soliciting bribes at the expense of human lives.

Just before Christmas, I witnessed a rather annoying road use practice and abdication of duty by police officers. At the Nairobi’s Globe Roundabout three traffic police officers—two females and their male senior of the inspector rank—controlled traffic entering the roundabout from the city centre and the University Way.

As I waited at the island to cross the road, one of the officers flagged down vehicles from the University Way to allow those from the central business district and Ngara area right of way.

Two motorcyclists from the University Way made a right U-turn into the roundabout, riding, literally, at the feet of the officers, to clime to Moi Avenue. More outlaws did the same and none of the officers seemed to notice anything untoward in the behaviour or take action. A day later, I witnessed yet another rider abruptly cut across the road on Waiyaki Way with absolutely no regard to other road users. In the process, he rammed into the rear of a long distance passenger van.

Fortunately, the van driver did not panic and easily controlled the vehicle. Had he not, the story would have been different. The bike was slightly damaged. No one was injured and they all moved on. These are not the most graphic examples of unschooled riders let loose on our roads, but the fact that traffic officers will prefer to look the other way as rogue riders flout the law, is worrying.

There appears to be an unwritten law that motorcyclists are exempt from traffic rules. Why, for example, should a motorcyclist jump traffic lights as police officers nonchalantly watch? Why should they ride on the wrong side of the road when there is no emergency to warrant it yet officers and city county government askaris take no action?

Why should they be allowed to overload their bikes with impunity? Why do they speed and flout laws at will? Now they even maliciously blind motorists with high-beam LED headlights! Lately, everybody has been accusing the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) of impotence or ineffectiveness in reference to the high rate of road carnage. Many people rightly feel it is time the authority was disbanded.

The authority is a recent creation that has really had no impact despite its range of rules and regulations. In fact, NTSA is just an extra burden to the road user! NTSA should do more to educate Kenyans on better use of roads, act proactively to reduce road accidents or be disbanded. There are written traffic rules and regulations in this country and there is a prescribed way of following them.

NTSA doesn’t need extra rules for boda boda or other road users to restore sanity. If existing rules were to be enforced to the letter, and without favour, our roads would be safer. All we need, as a nation, is diligent enforcement of laws and taming of the corruption dragon. The writer is a freelance journalist. [email protected]

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