The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has been under siege lately and for good reason. Their critics claim that they have abandoned their mandate because they appear to tolerate the road carnage which is graphically broadcast on our screens by the national news networks and on our social media timelines by smartphone wielding eye witnesses.
Government agencies tend to be impervious to public sentiment but there is an opportunity to turn this thing around by focusing on the immediate task and using technology to get their naysayers, and wayward road users, back on board.
Some of the backseat drivers are high ranking government officials who are indeed sitting in the back seat as they rehearse their upcoming speeches that damn NTSA. They do this as their chauffeurs shamelessly break every rule in the Highway Code, infuriating motorists and carrying obviously unqualified Matatu operators, bodaboda riders and Uber drivers in their wake.
NTSA must face the fact that our roads have evolved into a place where drivers think that stop signs are a suggestion, and that speed limits are really velocity targets, which only exist where speed traps have been set around the corner by the police for unsuspecting victims. Every time you meet a taxi driver or bodaboda operator from now on, ask them if they’ve read the Highway Code, and watch their eyes glaze over.
There are 3 types of motorists we have on the road today. Those that don’t know the rules and don’t know that they don’t know; those who know the rules and act like they don’t know; and that frustrated lot that knows the rules and tries to comply. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, however big that step might be, and in this instance NTSA must address the first category as a priority on the road to positive change.
Be bold and take a leap of faith into the 21st century, will you. Walk into your theory testing centres and donate those miniature boards and toy cars to children’s homes and use some of your Ksh. 2 billion budget to digitise by replacing them with computerised panels and driving simulators. That alone will save time and greatly increase the number of drivers tested. At the same time get your buddies at the Driving Schools to do the same and incorporate smartphone apps for their students to enhance the learning experience.
Since the Communications Authority has convinced us that every man, woman and child (excluding newborns) has a mobile phone, then it is in your interest to host an interactive Highway Code app, and to make it a hit, add a gamification element to it. Award points just for downloading the app on your phone and agreeing to the terms and conditions.
Users can then accumulate more points as they advance through the modules of the Code, and those points can be redeemed at participating service stations for fuel, oil changes and even packets of cigarettes from their convenience stores.
By the time you are done digitising your learning process and continual education systems, every man, woman and child (excluding newborns) will be qualified to operate a vehicle on our roads, not to mention that the knowledge gained will produce safer roads.