29 December 2012

Kenya: Good News From the New Traffic Act


Although the 'official' festive season will only end after the New Year, the early signs are that in 2012, there have been much fewer accidents during this traditionally dangerous period, than there were last year.

The underlying dynamics were much the same this year, as they were last year: you had plenty of Kenyans trying to get to their rural homes in time for Christmas; the traveling being mostly in one direction (away from the major towns and cities) with no return traffic from rural areas to the urban centres; this creating a situation in which there was a strong incentive for public service vehicles to go beyond established speed limits in an effort to maximise on these opportunities.

But despite the circumstances which usually lead to such widespread fatal road accidents all over the country, this year the accidents - according to the police - were much fewer. Here then is an example of a situation in which new laws have produced an immediate beneficial effect.

During all those weeks when the matatu drivers and touts were staging boycotts to protest the new laws, there were many who argued that the real problem was corrupt traffic policemen, and that the only result of the hefty fines would be that the police would pocket larger sums.

But we have now seen that no matter what the limitations of the new traffic laws may have been, in practice, they serve as a great disincentive for reckless driving.

And as such, they are a key tool in bringing down the horrific levels of accident-related deaths in Kenya. The news that the much-dreaded "alcoblow" breathalyser will soon be back in the hands of the Kenyan police is further good news.

All this is but one example of how enlightened legislation can help produce real improvements in a matter that is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

Quote of the day: "No man ever became great or good except through many and great mistakes." William E. Gladstone a late British Prime Minister, was born on December 29, 1809.

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