Seth Onyango @SethManex
The ill-fated bus that crashed in Kericho county killing 56 people, flouted every traffic rule even as the police and National Transport and Safety Authority traded blame over who is responsible for the accident.
It has emerged the vehicle did not have requisite approvals to operate at night, was overloaded and had not been fitted with a speed governor prescribed for PSV and commercial vehicles.
The Speed Governors and Road Safety Association says inspection of the wreckage showed it did not have the device.
In addition, the bus did not have safety belts and did not have a co-driver contrary to the rules which require buses operating at night to have more than one driver.
Although there is no law capping the age limit for drivers, the owners of the bus were faulted for hiring a 72-year-old man to steer the vehicle for long night trips.
In 2014, the NTSA proposed that the age limit of a Public Service Vehicle (PSVs) driver should not exceed 55 years and must be on the road for not more than eight hours.
Early this year, the safety agency also called on the adoption of body construction Standards KS 372 for PSVs that were gazzetted in 2014 by the Kenya Bureau of Standards after the Ntulele bus accident that claimed 41 passengers.
Traffic police data shows that in the last 10 months, about 2,345 people have died in road crashes across the country, an eight per cent increase compared of 2,165 in the same period last year, an increase of 180.
An assessment of the crash at Fort Ternan in Kericho county shows the bus owners may have exploited structural weaknesses within the traffic police to operate illegally.
Glaring loopholes such as lack of synergies between NTSA and the police and confusion over their roles may have also contributed to the accident.
It also emerged the bus driver and conductor may have bribed their way to death after it became apparent they passed through several roadblocks without being flagged down.
Addressing a press conference in Nairobi, Inspector of Police Joseph Boinnet said stern action will be taken against officers who were manning the roadblocks where the bus drove through.
On the spot is the Kericho Police commandant James Mugera who Boinnet blamed for not putting in place measures to ensure road safety rules in his area of jurisdiction.
“We have started investigations and if there are any officer who allowed the bus to proceed with all those mistakes, they will be punished,” he said.
Boinnet also urged Kenyans take personal responsibility to ensure safety on the roads since the police will not be available all the time.
“You don’t require a police officer to be standing every time when riding a motorbike or vehicle. Practice greater sense of responsibility as enforcers do their job,” he said.
Those conversant with the road where the accident occurred told People Daily that it is not manned by traffic police, thus is popular with drivers who are flouting road rules. It is believed the driver took the route to avoid the police.
NTSA director general Francis Meja revealed that over 100,000 buses are yet to comply with the body construction standards that can withstand serious accidents.
He also appealed to Kenyans to use safety belts.
Accordig to Meja, specifications, referred to as KS372:2014 only came into effect in May last year leaving many other vehicles exposed to risks.
“Before then, there were no bus construction standards. Most of those built after that will have complied. There is a seven-year grace period for compliance,” he said.
He promised to work closely with the police to ensure traffic rules are observed as Kenyans inch closer to the festive season which is prone to accidents.