UN’s Kenya road death figures far higher than government’s
Kenya’s road traffic fatality rate in 2017 stood at 27.8 persons per 100,000 population, according to WHO’s calculations.
Kenya’s road traffic fatality rate in 2017 stood at 27.8 persons per 100,000 population, according to WHO’s calculations. FILE PHOTO | NMG
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) new global survey of road safety reports that 13,463 Kenyans died last year in crashes on Kenya’s roads — a toll more than four times greater than the government’s figure of 2,965 deaths. The rate of road traffic deaths in Kenya far exceeds the global rate and is somewhat higher than the average for Africa, the WHO notes.Kenya’s road traffic fatality rate in 2017 stood at 27.8 persons per 100,000 population, according to WHO’s calculations.The global rate was 18.2 deaths per 100,000 people, while the Africa average was 26.6 per 100,000.WHO’s estimate of road traffic deaths in specific countries often differs from governments’ statistics because the United Nations agency does not place a time limit on fatalities resulting from crashes.“In the case of Kenya,” explains Dr Nhan Tran, WHO’s leading expert on road safety, “the reported number (2,965) comes from the National Transport and Safety Authority, and the definition that is used is ‘died at the scene of crash’.”“We know that many more deaths occur after the crash, in the hospital and sometimes many months after the crash,” Dr Tran added in an email message to the Business Daily.“So the main reason for the under-reporting of deaths in Kenya is due to the very narrow definition of a road traffic death that is used.”
WHO’s own figures for road fatalities are based on data from each country’s death registry. Numbers from that source are “generally more complete than police or health data alone,” Dr Tran said.Governments are not believed to be deliberately under-reporting road traffic deaths, he added. Instead, “it is often the case that data systems are weak.”Sometimes, deaths resulting from road crashes are not reported to police and some fatalities of this type may not be recorded correctly, the WHO expert said.“So it really is an issue of capacity and quality of data systems in countries. Most governments want to know how big the problem really is,” Dr Tran said.Asked to assess the effectiveness of Kenya’s road-safety laws and enforcement, he noted that some regulations, such as motorcycle helmet requirements, do conform to best practices.“Others, such as drink driving laws, do not,” Dr Tran observed.Kenya’s permissible blood-alcohol-content limit of 0.08 g/dl (grams per decilitre) is higher than the recommended limit of 0.05 g/dl, he noted.