24 August 2013

Kenyan and Qatar Drivers Get New Road Courses

While traffic patterns in Kenya have evolved over the years, driving practices have not. The result has been increased road accidents and offences that insurance companies and even authorities cannot keep up with.

"Many drivers don't adhere to the rules of the road or don't know the rules of the road or don't care about the rules," says Isaac Mutashi, a trainer and road safety advocate.

Mutashi returned home last year at the height of traffic-related deaths that, according to police, topped 3,141 in 2012. Mutashi was a manager and trainer at Qatar's second largest driving school until mid last year.

He had seen Doha mushroom into a modern metropolis within a short time and learned that drivers and transport managers would take refresher courses to learn the changing traffic patterns.

That has not happened in Kenya despite increasing traffic and new types of roads. The Kenya Revenue Authority says Kenyans import 50,000 vehicles including new models every year.

Instead, accidents have shot up. Traffic Police boss Samuel Kimaru says more than 3,000 people die on the road every year.

"I saw I need in Kenya and strongly felt I need to feel it," says Mutashi. He left Qatar and founded the Safedrive Africa Foundation in Nairobi. He now trains drivers from institutions, schools and even transport managers. He has already trained those from St Andrews Tuli, Mimosa Court and Braeburn School among others.

Mutashi feels local driving schools lack the capacity for research-based training, which he offers.The foundation has an office in Nairobi's Langata area and in Doha.

"In Kenya, traffic injury patients represent between 45 per cent and 60 per cent of all admissions to surgical wards," he says. The foundation is also organising forums for pedestrians because police records show high incidence of pedestrians deaths on highway. For instance, while 61 people have died on Thika highway this year, 48 of them were pedestrians.

Mutashi worked as transport coordinator for the British High Commission in Nairobi before moving to Qatar. He hopes the trainings in Nairobi will develop better awareness on use of superhighways, effect of speed in different circumstances, and risk taking behavior.

There is evidence that speed may increase casualties. For example, in the US, raising the 89kph speed limit to 105kph was estimated to have increased fatalities by 15 per cent, according to th American Journal of Public Health.

Mutashi is also training drivers on pre-drive vehicle checks, how correct tyre pressures affect safety, tyre life and fuel efficiency. This is especially important with new model vehicles, which react differently to different roads and weather conditions.

He says these are among the leading causes of roads accidents in Kenya. Others are distractions like noise and mobile phones, and drink driving.

The foundation has partnered with Youth Against Road Accidents ((Yara) of Tanzania, Kenya's Pamoja Road Initiative, and the police in its initiative.

Police say apart from the training, enforcement of the Michuki rules will also reduce the accidents."In 2009 we lost 4,072 people, 3,055 in 2010, 3,332 in 2011 and 3,141 in 2012. we need to team up and do something to stop these deaths," says Traffic Police boss Kimaru.

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