Why The Increase in Boda Boda Accidents?

The death of three people in a horrible motorcycle accident just outside Voi inspired this article. The incident is among a spate of fatal motorcycle accidents in and around Voi and which call for alertness among boda boda operators.


According to eyewitnesses, the accident that killed three people on June 19 involved a motorcycle and a truck. The accident happened near the junction of the highway to Mombasa. Just weeks before, at least two people died in the same area when the motorcycle they were riding on collided with a truck.


Fatal accidents involving trucks and motorcycles are reported rather frequently at the famous ‘Caltex’ junction, which is the intersection between the Nairobi – Mombasa highway and the highway to Mwatate and Taveta.


The stretch of highway between Voi and Ikanga has also seen several very nasty motorcycle accidents. Other hotspots of motorcycle accidents in Voi are the junctions to Sikujua and Sofia, though accidents within the town are rarely fatal. Indeed, it can be argued that motorcycles are most ideal in an urban commuter setting, but should not be used on a major national highway.


A report by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) published in November 2019 showed that road accidents killed 3,053 people in Kenya between January and November that year. 910 motorcyclists died, which was the second highest number of fatalities after pedestrians. This means motorcyclists were almost 30% of road accident deaths during that period.


NTSA data shows that the number of road accident fatalities in 2020 between January and 23rd April was 1,022 of which 107 were motorcycle passengers. This implies that passengers on motorcycles were 10.5% of road accident fatalities in Kenya in the first four months of 2020.


The Daily Nation recently reported in March 2020 that motorcycles ranked second among vehicles involved in head-on collision accidents in Kenya. Saloon cars were the leading type of vehicle involved in head-on collisions. Of note is that motorcyclists are not always to blame for head-on collisions. They fall victim to other drivers who, faced with a choice between colliding with large vehicle or colliding with a motorcycle, choose to hit the motorcycle. The motorcycle becomes an evasion target because it is small and unlikely to damage the other vehicle. The article called for sensitization of motorcyclists on their unique vulnerability while on the road, especially when overtaking or when an oncoming vehicle is overtaking.


Transport using motorcycles has become the main mode of transport in Taita Taveta county. This is because motorcycles can venture right upto the doorsteps of their customers, something that matatus cannot do. Furthermore, the state of roads in the county means that there are many parts of Taita Taveta that can be reached only with motorcycles. Indeed, there is evidence that growth in the motorcycle transport business has pushed off matatus from some routes.


Motorcycle transport is a major source of employment in the county. The lack of job opportunities and the decline of farming as a source of livelihood has driven many young men into the boda boda business. The entry costs are quite low and it is possible to get into the business with somebody else’s bike.


Numerous studies have been done to explain why motorcycles are so prone to accidents.  In summary, it has been found that overspeeding, overloading and the use of drugs are the main reasons why boda boda business is dangerous. Lack of training and lack of experience have also been blamed for road accidents because several boda boda riders do not even have driving licenses.


Other factors blamed for the rise in boda boda accidents are corruption among the police and the state of roads in Kenya. Corrupt police look the other way as boda boda operators break traffic rules. Meanwhile, the highways were built too narrow and that is why boda boda operators are pushed off the road by the heavy trucks.


If a truck driver finds himself in a situation where he must choose between colliding with another truck or hitting a motorcycle, he will choose to save his own life by hitting the motorcycle. That is what it means to be an evasion target.

PICTURE: A motorcyclist with his passenger. Photo by Joy Meyer (Wikimedia).

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