Unavoidable deaths: Plan to build buses with safer bodies not implemented
The Kericho accident that killed 55 people on Wednesday brings to the fore some of the issues that were to be implemented in order to reduce road accidents and drastically cut down on fatalities on Kenya’s motorways.
At the scene of the Fort Ternan accident, pieces of glasses were strewn all over. They were once window glasses but after the bus rolled severally, the pieces of glass became weapons instantly.
The roof of the bus lay several metres away from the body of the bus, another give-away sign about the quality of the metal used to attach the canopy to the body of the bus.
The seats on the bus remained intact perhaps an indication that they were properly secured, but questions about the material used to make the seats are also being raised, since over 50 people were killed because of being tossed inside the rolling bus.
In August 2013, Ntulele area in Narok county made headlines after a bus rolled and plunged into a ditch killing 41 people all at once.
The driver was reported to have been at fault but the quality of the material used to assemble the bus raised many questions. And just like previous accidents, there were stern warnings from relevant authorities.
January 2018 another bus accident claimed the lives of 17 people. The accident occurred when a Nyamira Express company bus rolled into a valley at Amabuko near Keroka Town along the Kisii-Keroka highway. Many others were injured. The wreckage triggered debate about the assembly standards.
Eight months later on August 5, 10 young lives are lost when a school bus collided head-on with a truck near Mwingi town. 27 others are injured.
While the driver was blamed for the accident,questions about the safety of schools buses came to the fore.
After the Ntulele accident, stakeholders in the public transport industry came up with several measures to reduce death during such accidents, the main target being material used to assemble buses.
Shatter-proof glass material has since been made a requirement for the windows, but many manufacturers do not adhere to that.
All metals inside the bus are required to have smooth and not sharp edges to prevent passengers from being pierced when an accident occurs.
Also introduced are anti-rolling bars which are continuous rolling bars fitted inside the body of the vehicle so that in the event of an accident it becomes very difficult for the canopy of the bus to collapse.
The Seats on the bus are supposed to be secured on the chassis and not the body of the bus,..while the door is expected to be wide enough to allow for easy entry and exit.
According to the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), new and old buses were supposed to adhere to these new regulations by 2023, 10 years after the Ntulele Accident.
Body builders will be assessed by organisations accredited by the Kenya Accreditation Service.
The State has already sounded an alarm over vehicle body builders producing substandard bodies of PSVs without following the standards set by KEBS.
The new standards also require that PSVs remove luggage racks on the roofs, have 400mm passenger seats, safety belts and safety equipment such as fire extinguishers and first aid kits.
NTSA now says it can no longer wait as the buses continue to kill innocent lives and will soon make these news standards become effective immediately.
Most of the buses that operate without booking offices and whose companies can only afford to hire one driver per trip are said to be flouting the rules including evading inspection.
Following the Kericho accident, it remains to be seen whether relevant authorities will now be keen in ensuring the new bus construction regulations are followed and action taken against those who choose to ignore them.
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