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LIVES CUT SHORT: The accident scene. Photo The Star


A new campaign backed by the United Nations seeks to reduce the official speed limit in urban areas to 30 kilometres per hour.

In Kenya and most countries, the speed limit in urban places is 50km/h, but only reduces to 30km/h near schools.

The campaign comes at the start of the sixth UN Global Road Safety Week, which commences Tuesday and ends on May 23.

At least 3,000 Kenyans are killed in road crashes every year, according to the National Transport and Safety Authority.

The majority of the victims are pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists mostly in urban areas, NTSA says.

The World Health Organization, which supports the new global campaign, says deaths did not reduce during the lockdown due to speeding.

Google mobility reports show movement decreased overall due to Covid-19 lockdowns last year and people working from home.

“Fatality numbers have not decreased in the same proportion because people drive at higher speeds,” WHO said in a statement.

In December last year, NTSA said fatalities in Kenya increased to 3,663 in 2020, compared to 3,508 in 2019. 

“We need a new vision for creating safe, healthy, green and liveable cities,” WHO boss Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

“Low-speed streets are an important part of that vision. As we recover and rebuild from Covid-19, let’s make safer roads for a safer world.”

The global drive, called Streets for Life Campaign, is led by Zoleka Mandela, a granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, who lost her daughter in a road traffic crash in South Africa in 2010.  

Safe Drive Africa, a Kenyan road traffic lobby, supports the initiative.

“We are losing more people to road accidents than to Covid-19, and we are not putting in similar efforts to stop accidents,” Safe Drive Africa executive director Isaac Mutashi said.

Several heads of UN and international agencies, NGOs and private companies have signed an open letter calling for 30km/h speed limits in cities worldwide.

The letter highlights the need to lower speed to achieve the target of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 and the sustainable development goals.    

Evidence shows that 30km/h speed where people mix with traffic not only saves lives, but also promotes walking, cycling and a move towards zero-carbon mobility.

Last year's Stockholm Declaration on Road Safety urged member states to address speed management as a key road safety intervention.

In particular, it urged countries to “strengthen law enforcement to prevent speeding and mandate a maximum road travel speed of 30km/h as appropriate in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner…”

The Stockholm Declaration based its call for low-speed streets on studies in cities such as Graz, Austria; London, UK; New York, USA; and Toronto, Canada, which indicated that 30km/h speed limits and zones yielded reductions – often significant – in road traffic crashes, injuries and deaths. - John Muchangi, The Star

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