Nairobi News

General

Why Umoja accident was inevitable

To Umoja residents, an Umoinner matatu ramming into a train or train hitting one was just a matter of time.

Wednesday’s accident was, in a way, a tragedy waiting to strike.

Whereas we are not blaming the driver of the ill-fated matatu for the deaths, it was obviously to Mutindwa hawkers and passengers that some UmmoInner matatu would soon or later cause a serious accident.

This would explain why they blocked the road linking Umoja to Jericho to punish the matatu’s owners

Among Eastlanders, there is talk of how the Umoja matatus have taken the biscuit from F23, and Buruburu ones for the wrong reasons: Speeding, loud music and disregard for traffic laws.

Jogoo Road motorists have long realised that a dual carriage way simply means extra lanes to these drivers.

Whenever there is a traffic jam, the driver simply swings the steering wheel to the right, flying over kerbs, to face oncoming traffic.

Lights blazing and horns blaring, the monsters speed on the wrong side of the road pushing other motorists to the road shoulders.

This is the mindset that has crystalised into a culture. By culture we mean acceptable behaviour to the drivers, the matatu owners and even commuters.

It is common for passengers to put in a good word for the matatus because they take 20 minutes from town centre to Umoja; even in the heaviest of traffic jams.

Young people love them for the maddeningly loud gangster rap and, of course, the thrill of speed.

Owners think speeding means more trips and therefore more money. It is a business strategy.

Traffic police know that there would be no priests if the devil didn’t exist. Wouldn’t their job be a thankless one if everybody obeyed the Highway Code and bribes disappeared?

In other words, Wednesday’s tragedy happened because police have allowed impunity to take root on our roads.

The Traffic Act prescribes a Sh500,000 for dangerous driving. Do you know of anybody who paid that sort of fine?

The answer is most likely no. The huge fine creates a perfect opportunity for an officer to drive a hard bargain against an offending driver.

As for the Kenya Railways Corporation belated warnings, such as the one we heard from one of its officials Wednesday, about encroachments on railway way serve no purpose at all.

They happen after people have lost loved ones, making mockery of their grief.

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