At about 11:30pm on Thursday October 3, a Nairobi-bound bus collided head-on with a truck as its driver attempted to overtake a cane tractor at Pala on the Kisumu-Kericho highway, killing 13 passengers on the spot and leaving scores of others injured.
On Monday September 30, a rogue matatu crew member tossed a passenger out of speeding vehicle killing him instantly. Interestingly, the incident happened just a few metres from the main police station in Kakamega town. The crew of the matatu plying the Kakamega-Kisumu route was later arrested.
Barely two months earlier on August 10, a 24-year-old passenger, Gerald Kimondo died on the spot after he was thrown out of bus at Githuria on the Nairobi-Thika highway following a disagreement with the crew.
Strangely, the same bus was involved in a similar incident in 2018. Its crew threw out 20 year-old Doreen Kinya, a student at Nairobi Institute of Business Studies. Ms Kinya succumbed to her injuries.
These incidents are only a tip of the iceberg even as untold lawless crept back in the public transport sector — leaving thousands dead and others maimed.
A spot check by the Business Daily in many parts of the country reveals a state of rot as matatu crew return to their bad old ways — making a mockery of the Traffic Amendment Acts 37 and 38 which came into effect on December 1, 2012, raising hope of enhanced safety and comfort in public travel.
With the amended laws came hefty fines and penalties for violations such as careless and dangerous driving, failure to wear uniform by public service vehicle (PSV) crew, carrying excess passengers and speeding.
It however seems the punitive terms only worked to jolt the rogue crew temporarily after the initial wave of enforcement slowed down.
It is now common to find crew operating without uniform and overloaded vehicles — way beyond their designated capacity as police officers look the other way.
The hotheads are back to speeding despite the requirement that they fit their vehicles with speed governors.
For bribes as little as Sh50, officers charged with enforcing order on our roads and on the highways have dropped the ball and are letting rogue operators have their way.
Data by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) data shows that traffic accident fatalities for the last 12 months are up 15 per cent, from last year’s 2,021 deaths. At least 2,326 people have died on Kenyan roads in the year to October.
Most affected routes: Nairobi-Kiambu; Nairobi-Ongata Rongai; Githurai-Ruiru; Nairobi-Westlands-Wangige; Ngong-Kiserian; Ruaka-Limuru; and Umoja-Kayole.
Vehicles on the Ongata Rongai-City Centre route have become notorious for overlapping and obstructing other motorists.
The madness is common around the intersection of Lang’ata-Magadi roads near Galleria Shopping Mall as well as the stretch into Rongai town right from the turn off to the Catholic University of Eastern Africa campus.
Some of the vehicles on the Ongata-Rongai route also illegally drive through the Lang’ata cemetery and onto adjacent estate roads to beat traffic between the Kenya Wildlife Service head office and Lang’ata Hospital — heavily inconveniencing other road users.
The Umoja-Kayole route is also synonymous with chaos. Overloading is the order of the day, with excess passengers being forced to stand.
The Githurai-Ruiru, Mwiki-Kasarani and Umoja routes probably have some of the most undisciplined crew in Nairobi.
Picking and dropping off passengers on undesignated sections, overlapping, carrying excess passengers has become the norm on these three routes.
The crew are also known to manhandle passengers even on flimsy grounds.
Most affected routes: Nairobi-Naivasha; Gilgil-Nakuru
This routes continue to report a high number of accidents — a trend that has been partly blamed on reckless driving.
On September 9, three passengers died after a matatu collided with a mini bus at Marula along the Naivasha-Nakuru highway.
The matatu was managed by the New Nairobi-Naivasha United Services (NNUS) Sacco.
“The matatu driver headed towards Nairobi was trying to overtake a fleet of vehicles when the accident occurred at around midday,” according to Naivasha Sub-County Police Commander Samuel Waweru.
Just days earlier on September 1, six people lost their lives after a matatu under 2NK Sacco collided head-on with a truck at Nyakairu centre, some 15 kilometres from Naivasha town.
A spot check on the busy Nairobi-Naivasha-Nakuru highway reveals most PSVs drivers overlap and overtake dangerous especially on the stretches around Kinungi, Gilgil, Mbaruk, Elementaita and River Malewa.
George Munderu, the operation’s director at the NNUS Sacco — which has more than 200 registered vehicles — said safety has become a key focus including impromptu checks on their drivers to ensure they comply with road safety regulations.
Most affected routes: Ol Kalou-Nyahururu; Ol Kalou-Njabini; Wanjohi-Miharati-Engineer
Commuters in Nyandarua accuse traffic police officers and county enforcement department of laxity in enforcing safety regulations, leading to several accidents and nuisance in the industry.
Most matatus have left designated bus parks to operate from the highways, competing for passengers and posing a risk to other road users.
Matatu’s plying the Ol Kalou-Nakuru town route operate from a stretch opposite Rushmore Hotel in Ol Kalou town, dangerously blocking the highway.
“The drivers and conductors plying Ol Kalou-Nyahururu and Ol Kalou Njabini route are notorious for overloading. They carry 14 passengers from the stage but start overloading within the townships,” said a commuter, Daniel Kabuue.
The stretch between Jua Kali estate and the Ol Kalou Water and Sanitation Company offices has been turned into an illegal stage.
“Cases of reckless driving are also common. Most of the PSVs have defective or easy to manipulate speed governors, with defective seat belts,” said Muthoni Waihenya, a trader at Engineer Market in Kinangop Constituency.
Most of the drivers do not display their photos on the vehicles as is required.
Overloading is also witnessed in Probox and other small private cars operating between Ol Kalou town to the rural areas and rural market centres.
Most affected routes: Eldoret include; Eldoret town- Chepkoilel, Eldoret Town-Maili NNE and Eldoret-Annex
A spot check in Eldoret and Bungoma towns revealed that there was negligence and flouting of the law by venom-spitting matatu crew.
Passengers seem to have surrendered their comfort as long as they reach their destination.
Most notorious routes in Eldoret include; Eldoret Town- Chepkoilel; Eldoret Town-Maili NNE and Eldoret-Annex where crews operating 14-seater matatus overload the vehicles oblivious of the danger they expose passengers to.
A matatu crew who sought anonymity for fear of being reprimanded by his employer and colleagues said they overload mostly during the rush hour in the evenings to make an extra coin.
Some rowdy matatu drivers on the routes have formed the habit of obstructing other motorists while picking up passengers in undesignated points.
Some of the matatus are believed to be owned by high ranking police officers operating in or outside the region.
Under the watchful eye of compromised law enforcement officers who mostly control traffic on roundabouts, matatu crews impunity has grown.
When stopped by police officers the crew usually openly bribe the officers and continue with their lawbreaking ways.
So emboldened have the PSV operators become that in August, police officers in Bungoma were on the spot over failure to take action against crew members of a Siaya bound bus that was overloaded.
The Nya Ugenya bus was overloaded with luggage to an extent that it broke one of its suspension springs.
“Road blocks should be reintroduced to tame such greed at the expense of innocent Kenyans,” said Mr Manoah Simiyu, a regular commuter on the Eldoret-Malaba highway.
Most affected routes: Kisumu-Bondo; Kisumu-Oyugis-Kisii; Kisumu-Kendu Bay-Homabay; Kisumu-Kakamega; Kisumu-Awasi-Chemelil-Muhoroni-Kapsabet; Kisii-Nyamira; Kisii-Migori-Isebania.
Matatu crew on these routes habitually flout safety rules despite many police road blocks and check points. The 14-seater matatus carry up to 19 passengers — thanks to movable wooden planks popularly known as sambaza that are fitted between the seats to allow excess passengers to sit in the aisles.
When all the fixed seats and sambazas are taken up, matatu conductors hang precariously from the vehicle doors. In larger buses and minibuses, excess passengers stand in the aisles with little regard to their safety.
“During the rush hour, mainly in the morning when we’re going to work and in the evenings, the touts always ensure the vehicles carry excess passengers.
If you dare challenge them, they throw you out,” Mr Fred Omondi who works with an NGO in Bondo and uses the public means of transport daily to and from his place of work.
This is the same scenario is replicated by PSVs plying Kisumu- Luanda — Siaya; Kisumu-Kakamega; Kakamega-Mumias routes. Some of the matatus don’t have the seat belts.
Kakamega Central Sub-County police commander David Kabena said the operators are taking advantage of the absence of traffic officers to flout the law.
“We have mobile courts, at least twice a week but that is still not adequate in enforcing the regulations. Defective vehicles are still operating on our roads but because there are no traffic officers to monitor and arrest offenders, it is difficult to contain the situation,” said Mr Kabena.
In southern Nyanza, station wagon cars are a popular mode of transport, often dangerously overloaded. Though designed to carry just five passengers, it is common to find them loaded with up to 14 commuters on routes such as Oyugis-Kisii, Homa Bay-Mbita, Oyugis-Kendu Bay.
In Kisii, passengers have protested what they have termed as arbitrary fare hikes in the region by the matatu owners.
Benson Ayienda, Ken Wamasebu, Rushdie Oudia, Dickens Wasonga, George Odiwuor and Ben Amadala