EDITORIAL: Move to remove stalled vehicles from roads overdue

Mr Francis Meja, NTSA director-general (right). file photo | nmg
Mr Francis Meja, NTSA director-general (right). file photo | nmg 

Road accidents are back in the news as wary Kenyans supposedly enjoy the festive season after a long and energy sapping electioneering period.

While it is not clear whether the year will end with a higher toll than previous ones, unnecessary loss of lives must be avoided at all costs.

As often happens, everyone concerned is running around making knee-jerk proposals that range from registering driving schools afresh to removing corrupt traffic police officers from the roads.

All these have some merits but the one that deserves immediate attention is an order from National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) that vehicles be removed from the roads one hour after stalling.

This is a common practice globally that should have been implemented years back in Kenya. A lot of accidents happen because motorists stall without putting safety measures like reflective triangles on the road or even bothering to push the vehicles to the road side.

The situation is more alarming on major transport arteries and Western Kenya where cane transporters regularly break down. On top, blocking roads has a huge economic cost.

But we only welcome the NTSA announcement with caution. First, while NTSA has been towing vehicles, it has limited capacity.

That means a lot of towing will be done by private towing vehicles overseen by the traffic or other police. This will be a new avenue of corruption for police officers and their accomplices who own the towing vehicles.

Before NTSA implements the measure, it must ensure all towing vehicles are registered with them and comply with tax measures.

Only fiscal receipts should be issued for towing, with tough penalties imposed on those who defy this. The towing vehicles must themselves be roadworthy.

NTSA must ensure that towing is only done strictly on expiry of one hour. That is why it will be important for both parties to sign a document explaining timing and position of a vehicle. If not, police will end up towing vehicles parked on the road side.

With costs ranging from Sh7,000 to over Sh21,000, strict monitoring of the industry that currently only makes money for traffic police and their hirelings is a must.