On the evening of Wednesday, November 1, six people died at the notorious Salgaa black spot on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway, adding to the piling of grief that Kenyans have to contend with too often as the road carnage takes its toll.
While it always looks distant unless it touches any one of us directly, the reality is that families and friends are left to deal with the real, painful consequences; the cost of hospitalisation and funerals and loss of their loved ones.
Our road safety record remains one of the worst in the world, with 29 deaths per 100,000 people.
The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) statistics indicate that some 2,397 lives had been lost by September 11 on our roads.
Although this represents a six per cent decline compared to the same period last year; the number is still considerably high and unacceptable.
It means that we lose nine lives every 24 hours.
Even one life lost to such a preventable cause is one too many.
The carnage is due to scanty, obscure, dangerous or just non-existent road infrastructure such as signs, warnings and markings.
Roads are often left without lane markings or luminous marks that ease navigation at night.
Often times you find road signs and marks so small that a motorist may have to squint just to read them.
Many other times, a motorist will just drive into a bump with no warning at all.
There are numerous sharp bends, trading centres with no pedestrian crossings, market centres where hawkers literally encroach onto the road, black spots, sections of highways with vegetation limiting motorists’ vision.
Each year, tens of lives are lost at the same black spots.
Some notorious ones across the country, including Karai, Salgaa, Sagana, and Daraja Mbili in Kisii, have remained unattended to despite the shocking loss of life.
While we appreciate the strategic public awareness campaigns the NTSA, Matatu Owners Association, and East African Breweries to educate the public on road safety and to discourage driving under the influence; the time is now for emphasis on tangible actions on road infrastructure.
The design of roads must also respond to acts of vandalism.
We must make it harder for vandals to take away lifesaving equipment.
On Sunday, November 19, we marked the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDR) to remember the many millions killed and injured on the roads, together with their families, friends and others who are also affected.
It is also a day when we thank the emergency services and reflect on the tremendous burden and cost to families, and communities and ways to halt it.
We need to highlight key infrastructural adjustments to improve the safety of road users.
Secondly, to achieve the Decade of Action for Road Safety and of halving the number of global deaths and injuries from road accidents by 2020 and the targets set under the Sustainable Development Goal No. 3, we need to start thinking long-term.
This must begin with advocating inclusive infrastructure at the design and planning stages to avoid the emergence of new blackspots.
According to information on the Kenya Police Service website, 75 sections have been identified as risky for motorists due to the high number of accidents that have occurred in their vicinity.
The black spots claim thousands of lives every year.
While it is critical to address human factors such as speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, erratic pedestrians, unroadworthy vehicles, and other factors that increase the road risks, it is more critical to find a lasting solution to the black spots to enhance road safety.
As the festive season approaches, we need to protect ourselves from the frightening deaths as people travel upcountry for the Christmas holiday.
Something has to change. And we’re already on borrowed time.
Mr Kittony is a founder trustee of the National Road Safety Trust, and chairman of the Kenya National Chambers of Commerce and Industry. [email protected]