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Health & Fitness

Compared to highway, SGR scores A for safety

Passengers aboard an SGR train
Passengers aboard an SGR train from Nairobi to Mombasa on July 25. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL 

Driving down Nairobi-Mombasa highway, one encounters numerous trucks with all sorts of cargo ranging from containerised trucks and petroleum products-hauling trucks and those delivering raw materials to manufacturing plants or goods to markets.

Depending on the frequency of one’s travel along the road, the other common feature is that you seldom miss seeing a road accident on any particular day. For a road stretching some 485km or thereabouts, it’s accident per kilometre and fatality per accident ratios are scaring.

Invariably, a majority of these accidents involve a truck or another long-distance vehicle on the route, with the probability being that a smaller vehicle will have worse percentage of fatalities in the aftermath.

Pedestrian fatality ratio, a percentage of road traffic accident fatalities to pedestrians as an indicator of road usage is also high along the highway.

While there are many reasons advanced for the high fatality rates, the general observation is that truck drivers and bigger motor vehicle operators do not exercise due respect or road courtesy to fellow motorists, especially those with smaller vehicles. Road design may also be a factor, but to a large extent human behaviour is the major cause.

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Last week’s crash involving two buses from the same company just highlights the perils frequent commuters on the road face.

For night time journeys in particular, the statistics are worrying. The majority of accidents occur at dawn or at night and sleep is a possible reason.

Several approaches have been attempted at curtailing road carnage. Frequent stops, multiple drivers for long distance routes, as well as speed control and regulation all could help. The best, however, is shifting transport to safer means of travel and haulage. Here train travel is easily the best alternative.

Critics of the standard gauge railway (SGR) trains often fail to mention it’s other superior side: Safety. In the recently released Kenya Railways data, the operator moved upwards of a million passengers on the railway line. The cause attributable fatalities were less than one particularly for the SGR.

For an equivalent number of passengers, buses and conventional motor vehicles would have contributed to much higher fatalities. On the cargo front, while the SGR has struggled to break even, it’s accident per containers freighted ratio is also impressive.

For insurers, it would be interesting to find out how much is paid out for accidents along the road involving cargo goods and long distance buses and trucks as well as hospitalisation and life premium payments.

The SGR may have it’s flaws, but for all these, it scores an impressive A on safety.

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