Article by Winnie Kabintie
Kenya can be said to be drinking nation and last year we were ranked among The Top 10 Heaviest Drinking Nations In Africa with an alcohol consumption of 9.72 liters/year.
Well, in Kenya there is always a reason to indulge in a bottle of something ranging from; taking one for the road, remedy for stress, celebrating a cow that has given birth and what have you. A typical Kenyan, a Nairobian especially can be so broke to afford basic necessities but will never be broke enough not to afford a drink.
We don’t like drinking near home either, the further the area of “turning up” the better and therefore drunk driving, which continues to be a major cause of road fatalities in the country, is therefore very rampant in the country. Road carnage in Kenya is one of the highest in the world as accidents continue to rise in the country as recorded in the recent report, ‘The final2015 road safety report’, by the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA).
Take a glance at Kenyan roads and especially from Friday evening all through the weekend and it’s not hard to understand why the statics are raising by day. Even with the introduction of breathalyzers (alco-blow) to control drunk driving, Kenyans with their peculiar habits have devised ways to evade the alco-blow police.
They will send alerts on social media warning their fellow drunk ‘comrades’ or partners in crime if you wish, of the locations the alco-blow police are stationed so that they can avoid the routes by all means.
IT’S NOT COOL OR MACHO
However, there has been a recent tactic that is growing popular among Nairobians that involves pulling stunts that you would otherwise see on a Hollywoood movie when nabbed by police for drunk driving. You will see a drunk driver take a dangerous u-turn, insanely enough on a highway, as soon as he comes into contact with the alco-blow police in total disregard of the danger he’s putting himself and other motorists. Some are lucky enough to live to tell the story but most don’t.
Others will fake that they are slowing down and drive right through the roadblock and what is even more disturbing is how “cool” and “heroic” pulling this dangerous stunts is perceived.
You will come across full grown men; if at all they were lucky enough not to get involved in accident, giving tales of how they pulled these stunts to a round of applause from their peers.
Taking a cab home is never much of an option because for an intoxicated Kenyan driver the popular belief is that “the car knows home”.
“By the way hata sijalewa,nikishika tu gari utashangaa,” (am not high, once I get behind the wheel you will be surprised) is a common phrase used by most drunk Nairobians, who accounted for the most fatal crashes in 2015 recording a total of 668 deaths according to NTSA.
Last year, Ruth Knaust, a strong advocate against gender based violence and one of the organisers of the popular demonstration by members of the Kilimani Mums Nairobi group on Facebook, life was cut short by a drunk driver who hit her while driving on the wrong side of the road. Her case was not an isolated one.
Drunk driving attracts a fine of up to Sh100, 000 or a jail term of one year or both but this doesn’t deter Kenyans.
According to NTSA the annual number of deaths by road crashes has averaged 3,000, costing the economy 5.6 per cent (Sh300 billion) of the national GDP. Last year, 3,057 people lost their lives through road accidents up from 2,907 in 2014 with pedestrians accounting for 40 % of the fatalities.
Nairobi County had most fatal crashes in 2015 recording a total of 668 deaths, majority being pedestrians at 497 deaths.
MORE FATALITIES OVER THE WEEKEND
Most of fatal road traffic Crashes occur at between 1700 hours to 2200 hours ( The peak being 2000 Hours) and weekend contributes the highest number of fatalities with a combined figure at average 38% in both 2014 and 2015. Saturday has the highest fatalities followed by Sunday for the last 2 years with the reasons being attributed to; High Travel numbers during this time hence increased exposure, High Speed travel especially on the highways and Drink Driving, Drink Walking, Drink Riding among others.