Preliminary investigations have established that free-wheeling could have been the cause of a grisly road accident that claimed 10 lives along the Nakuru-Eldoret highway on Tuesday evening.
County Police Commander Mr Peter Mwanzo said inquiries by officials from National Police Service (NPS), National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) and Kenya National Highways Authority (KENHA) had revealed that the driver of the trailer resorted to free-wheeling (where you engage the neutral gear because you want to save fuel), while hurtling down slope at high speed, before losing control of the vehicle.
While expressing concern that free-wheeling was the major cause of accidents at the Ngata Bridge-Sobea-Molo-Sachangwan-Salgaa black spots Mr Mwanzo said after the driver lost control of the trailer that was heading to Nakuru, it veered off the road and collided with an oncoming matatu that was heading to Kapsabet.
The police boss said the Kapsabet-bound matatu lost control and collided with another matatu that was heading to Bomet.
He confirmed that 16 people sustained serious injuries and were rushed to Nakuru Level Five Hospital where they are receiving treatment.
The dead include the drivers of the two matatus. The trailer driver escaped unhurt.
The police boss put on notice reckless Kenyan truck drivers warning that they risked having their licenses revoked, while indicating that their counterparts from neighbouring countries who flouted traffic rules would be banned from driving on Kenyan roads.
Mr Mwanzo who spoke when a team of officials NPS, NTSA and KENHA led by County Commissioner Mr Gilbert Kitiyo visited the accident scene urged motorists to be extra careful during the Christmas and New Year festive season as he directed traffic officers to arrest excess passengers in public service vehicles.
The Police Commander said human error, coupled with careless driving, is the biggest contributor to road accidents.
He announced that traffic police have launched crackdowns on major roads and highways to ensure there is sanity and that motorists do not break traffic rules.
Also targeted by the crackdowns are unroadworthy vehicles and private cars operating as public service vehicles.
Mwanzo warned that unlicensed operators seeking to cash in on the Christmas festivities will be arrested.
“We are going to sustain this campaign beyond the Christmas festivities to ensure only roadworthy PSVs ferry passengers,” affirmed the police boss.
He said fortnightly, at least one fatal road carnage is reported on the Ngata Bridge-Sobea-Molo-Sachangwan-Salgaa stretch as Kenyans lose their lives daily on the roads across the country this year as accidents’ fatalities continue to record an exponential rise.
Statistics from the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) show that 156 more Kenyans have died on the road between January and November this year compared to the same period last year.
The data shows that last year recorded fatalities tallied at 3,947; a figure slightly lower than this year’s 4,103.
This amounts to an average of 373 deaths per month and 12 deaths daily with a majority occurring during the weekends.
Mr Kitiyo noted that many Kenyans are travelling for the holidays and they should follow traffic regulations to avoid accidents.
“I urge all motorists and road users to exercise extra vigilance during the festive period. Every life on our roads counts and must be protected at all costs. Motorists are encouraged to be patient, extra vigilant and courteous to other road users,” stated the administrator.
The County Commissioner revealed that since January, 238 accidents had been recorded in the region, adding that as a short-term measure signage limiting speed along the Sobea-Ngata stretch would be erected alongside strict enforcement of the 50 kilometre per hour rule.
While indicating that rumble strips will be added on several portions of the stretch Mr Kitiyo said the national government was planning to expand the Sobea-Ngata stretch into a dual carriage separated with a barrier in the middle.
According to the County Commissioner, drivers can either save or end lives depending on the decisions they make while on the roads. He noted that the festive season comes with an increased number of travelers and so public service vehicles take advantage of this to overload and speed in a bid to increase their profits but, in the process, endanger people’s lives.
“The number of people we lose on our roads especially during the festive season is unacceptable. I urge drivers to exercise a lot of caution and stop speeding and careless driving which is common during the festive season,” said Mr Kitiyo.
He also urged travelers to avoid boarding vehicles which are already full. Instead, he said, they should help police and the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) in identifying those violating traffic rules.
Previously, scores of people have died and others injured in accidents that intensify during the festive season, between Christmas and New Year.
Mr Kitiyo warned the public against boarding unlicensed vehicles, saying they will be arrested and charged in court.
At the same time, he directed traffic officers manning roadblocks to arrest excess passengers and allow the rest to proceed with their journeys.
He said the move is part of the measures police will take during the festive season to enhance sanity on the roads.
By Jane Ngugi and Dennis Rasto