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Meet Nyeri’s dancing road safety ambassador

About 500 metres before you enter Nyeri town, at the Temple Road junction, is where you find Boaz Njogu, a dancing sensation who has captured the attention of motorists on the busy Karatina-Nyeri highway.

For anyone keen to observe, you will notice that the 23-year-old is not just focused on entertaining road users, rather he is on a road safety campaign mission. Next to Njogu’s dancing stage (the sidewalk), your attention is quickly drawn to a wooden stand bearing messages neatly written on a manila paper. The tidbits, a combination of traffic rules, inspirational phrases and a Bible verse, are dedicated to drivers.

“I want to appreciate drivers for what they do. I also hope to motivate them to stay focused behind the wheel regardless of the situation they may be going through,” says Njogu.

Armed with a piece of carton box, Njogu started his solo road safety campaign six months ago in the middle the Nyeri Central Business District. He would later relocate to the highway upon realizing that he was not attracting enough attention. His motivation was the heart wrenching statistics on road carnage.

“I started this campaign with the hope of changing the situation on our roads. We had gotten to a point where nearly every day, the country would wake up to news of a road accident,” he says.

True to Njogu’s assertion, last year, more than 20,000 people are reported to have been involved in road accidents in the country according to statistics from the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA).

Data released by NTSA in February this year showed that losing control of the vehicle was one of the main causes of accidents in 2023 accounting for 929 deaths. Lane indiscipline accounted for 491 deaths while careless overtaking led to 443 deaths during the year under review. The NTSA report further reveals that 310 deaths occurred due to misjudging road clarity, distance or speed.

“We are still witnessing a lot of accidents because motorists are not adhering to traffic rules. Many of the accidents are caused by speeding, careless driving and careless overtaking. Motorists need someone to remind them of the traffic rules if we want to regain sanity on the roads,” he says.

Currently, he has dedicated four hours of his day to this campaign. His day starts at 4:30 am in the morning when he writes down the messages and creates a music playlist to dance to. By 6:50 am, Njogu arrives at his duty station armed with his reflector jacket and wooden stand ready to start his campaign.

“I take advantage of the morning traffic between 7-9 am and the evening rush hour from 4-6pm to pass my message to the motorists,” says Njogu adding that during his free time, he fends for himself by taking up landscaping and fence trimming jobs.

His absence from the junction is also not taken kindly as motorists plying the route have gotten accustomed to his presence.

Martin Muriithi, a boda boda operator in at the Temple Road stage says, that whereas many may not appreciate what Njogu does, his presence on the road has played a part in restoring some semblance of sanity among motorists especially his colleagues who are notorious for flouting traffic rules.

“It is very rare to find someone that young who is that committed and courageous to take on such a huge task without any form of support. In fact, we normally get concerned when we don’t see the young man at his usual spot. As a boda boda rider, I appreciate that he takes his time to remind us about road safety and I would urge the county government to support his campaign,” says Muriithi.

But it has not been a bed of roses for Njogu. He says much as he finds fulfillment in his daily routine, his campaign has also come with its own set of challenges. The greatest one being lack of finances to support his work. On most occasions, he is forced to dig into his pocket to afford stationery but on good days he receives tokens of appreciation from motorists.

“I try my best to write fresh messages everyday so that I don’t lose the attention of the readers. To do this, I need a manila paper, masking tape and a marker pen. The estimated cost of one message is Sh150. Since I don’t have a steady job, I have resorted to repeating some messages on several occasions especially when I can’t afford the stationery,” says Njogu.

Similarly, he has not escaped the wrath of first time motorist and pedestrians alike who have misconstrued his campaign for an attention seeking venture. Njogu says that he has been yelled at and insulted on several occasions by people who thought he was a mad man.

“One of the biggest misconception that people had when they first saw me on the roadside holding a placard, was that I was under the influence of drugs. Some said I was mentally unstable but with time, some have comeback to apologise and to even support this campaign by giving me money and some donate reflector jackets to support this course,” he says.

Njogu believes that aggressive road safety campaigns such as his coupled with support from the relevant government agencies such as NTSA and the Traffic Department of the Kenya Police could help change the situation on the Kenyan roads.

He says that even though he may not have data to prove the effectiveness of his campaign, so far he has positively impacted on Nyeri motorist who have encountered him.

“It is hard for people to forget about road safety and traffic rules when they have a daily reminder. What I do may not impact on all the road users, but I am sure I touch the heart of one or two motorists in a single day,” he says.

By Wangari Mwangi and Wanjiru Ndiritu

 

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