17 May 2014

Kenya: Public Transport Companies Must Exercise Caution As Night Travel Resumes


Up to just a few months ago, it was almost routine for the TV evening news bulletins to be interrupted with "breaking news" about a lorry which had smashed into a saloon car. Or a bus which had a tire burst, and which had subsequently rolled into a ditch. Or a tanker which had burst into flames, along some highway. And in each case, there would be reports of dozens injured (a few critically injured) and a good number dead.

It is this preponderance of night traffic accidents which led the Transport Secretary Michael Kamau to issue a ban on all night travel. And as Kamau pointed out at the time, this was not a unique regulation: some of our neighbouring countries already had just such rules about night travel.

Now, following a case brought forward by public service vehicle owners, we find that the courts have struck down that ban, and night travel is to be allowed again.

Now, it may or may not be true that the process by which this ban on night travel was arrived at, was not procedural. Maybe it is true that the Transport secretary erred in law - certainly that is what the recent judgment suggests.

But what cannot be denied is that there was an appreciable drop in deadly road accidents during the period when this ban on night travel was in force. And that by his action - whether legal or not legal - the Transport Secretary saved many lives.

Now with the return to night travel for public service vehicles, the burden rests squarely on the shoulders of the transport companies to demonstrate their sense of responsibility to their customers.

The weeks ahead when large buses will again be roaring down our highways in the dead of night, must not see the return of the grisly road accidents which were so tragically common before this ban was imposed.

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