Was reading a piece comparing accident statistics (and attitude!) between Kenya and Sweden, and their law has a very interesting clause: “the responsibility for death or loss of health due to road accidents lies with the creators of that transportation system (think NTSA) and the law enforcers, NOT THE MOTORISTS”. Now that is an interesting angle. The drunk drivers (if any) are not to blame. The unroadworthy vehicles are not to blame. We believe the opposite, somehow. But let’s think about it.
I will use an example we can all relate well with: let’s look at the statistics of students whose KCSE results were cancelled over a span of 4 years: 2014 (3000), 2015 (5101), 2016 (0), 2017 (another likely 0!).
Now, explanation? Did the students get better? Did we teach them more ethics or administer holy communion before the exam? Did we? Not at all. What did we (or Matiangi, but he is ours still) do?
i) New policies of exam management were formulated, and they were extremely tight. This tightness was made clear to everybody.
ii) The punishment for offenders was brutal, instant and non-negotiable. You dare open the paper before 8am and Matiangi fires you from his office, instantly!! And you wait for him at the nearest police station.
iii) The consequences of breaking the rules were made extremely clear, and everyone who is involved in the whole process became aware of the consequences.
iv) Many offenders were given to us as living examples, with the severity and brutality of their punishment, for those who would probably be contemplating mischief.
Just that and the no cases of cheating were reported. Sweden holds that people have a way of aligning themselves to the systems put in place, and their level of adherence is proportional to the level of seriousness and radicalism of the implementers of the systems.
Therein lies our problem. We have a knee-jerk impulse-driven reaction to accidents, rather than well thought out solutions. Our measures are spontaneous rather than thoughtful. They are meant to masquerade our passivity and show that we are doing something. We even raise our voices as we declare a raft of rules “with immediate effect”. We introduce alcoblow overnight. We put a roadblock here and another one there. We arrest offenders and release them “pending investigations” (how do you investigate ‘being drunk’?). We have very relaxed laws and even more relaxed implementers. We have never really punished someone for disobeying traffic rules. I mean punishment which will scare everybody stiff.
But it can be done. We just lack the will. We have not lost enough lives. Or the lives we have lost are not “important” enough. Only when an MP’s car is scratched do we rush and make radical declarations. It is a very sad situation. Human life is priceless. Until we have like Sweden a “Vision Zero Accidents” philosophy and stop just being complacent because accidents have reduced by a decimal. As if there is an “acceptable” number of deaths.
We may be thoroughly disappointed, but we are not hopeless. Only that we don’t know whether our hope shall be transported with us to the grave courtesy of the next accident. There is a real possibility.