The ongoing road construction works in Turkana County is a welcome relief to residents who have endured dilapidated road infrastructure for many years.
Poor infrastructure had been an eyesore to residents and when the Jubilee administration promised to upgrade the road network in the county, many thought it was just another campaign pledge.
Nine years down the line, residents have a reason to smile especially with the construction of the Kawalase and Kainuk bridges where lives and properties was lost for many years during rainy seasons.
It is now possible for passengers to travel from Kitale to Lodwar within six hours, a distance that used to take up to 10 hours without guarantee of reaching one’s destination due to the poor state of the roads.
County director of medical services Dr Gilchrist Lokoel says the cost of flights was unaffordable to many people and with the construction of roads, residents are now able to travel without much difficulties.
However, this new development has come with its share of challenges to residents.
Lokoel citing statistics says that road accidents have increased by 24.2 percent across the country since 2013.
Road accidents have also been on the rise in Turkana County. According to Lokoel, a whole section of a ward at Lodwar county referral hospital is set aside for treatment of fractures due to bodaboda accidents.
“Due to the good condition of the roads, motorists and motorcycles are speeding not taking into consideration other road users. Animals crossing the roads, because Turkana community is mainly pastrolist, is another cause of accidents,” says Lokoel.
He also blames unmarked roads and bumps erected by locals and the contractors for the rise in the accident cases.
Lokoel regrets that besides loss of lives to road accidents, some people have suffered spinal injuries.
“Another effect of the road accidents is the psychological effect where passengers who have been involved in accidents are unable to sleep due to the post-traumatic stress disorders,” says Lokoel.
County Chief Officer in charge of Infrastructure Rosemary Nchinyei agrees that there is need for road safety campaigns to address rising cases of accidents.
“Road safety education is very critical, the road infrastructure has changed quite a bit and with dual carriage and a number of lanes, training or sensitization is necessary for both motorists and pedestrians,” said Nchinyei.
Turkana county residents are now appealing to the government to conduct road safety campaigns to avert looming accidents due to the upgrade of the road networks in the county.
The residents who spoke to KNA said most motorists and especially bodaboda operators are having difficulty navigating the roads in towns like Lodwar which have been upgraded and some sections are part of the AI road connecting Eldoret to South Sudan.
Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Turkana county chapter chairman Pius Ewoton said there is need for training on road safety.
He noted that some bodaboda operators do not even have driving licenses saying this poses a threat to themselves and other road users.
“We need to educate road users on the need to observe traffic rules to avoid accidents because many accidents are caused by human error,” said Ewoton.
According to James Ekuwam, a bodaboda operator, the government should ensure that only qualified drivers are allowed to operate on the roads.
“We have cases of unlicensed people operating as bodabodas thereby tarnishing our names because of their reckless driving,” said Ekuwam.
Turkana county police commander Samuel Ndanyi has asked motorists and pedestrians to be careful while using roads due to the upsurge in the number of vehicles in the towns.
Ndanyi cited a recent incident in December where a mother and her daughter lost their lives at Songot, Turkana West as an unfortunate incident.He appealed to motorists to observe speed limits and road signs while driving.
According to Lokoel, education on road safety will go a long way in reducing road accidents.
“There must be responsible road use and it must start with policy makers. National and county government transport authorities should educate road users and it is a matter of urgency, “he said.
By Peter Gitonga