Most bodaboda riders in Kisii town have stopped wearing helmets because of two reasons – one, big head sizes that do not fit in the protective gear, and two, because of hearing problems.
This is according to the Kisii County Bodaboda chairman Fred Nunda and confessions by tens of the bodaboda operators in town.
So, where does the two helmets issued when purchasing a motorcycle disappear to moments after leaving the shop?
Either, they are kept and left behind in the houses, or most commonly, an elastic band would be used to tighten the helmet to the bike’s fuel tank.
“Some helmets are very narrow in comparison to the rider’s head because companies have only been manufacturing protective gears of same sizes,” Mr Nunda told the 47 Reporters.
Tens of other riders in Kisii town confirmed Mr Nunda’s assertions.
“I am one person with hearing difficulties. While driving, I need to be on high alert to hear every other road user who could be hooting at me. That is not possible and puts my life at the danger of being hit by others,” Mr Vincent Mayaka who operates from the Capital round-about stage said.
Mr Nunda noted: “Riders with hearing problems are the ones who do not use helmets most of the times,” adding that “they resort to tightening them to the tanks just to beat police checks on the road.”
“Upon realizing that there is a police check some meters a head, I simply remove it from the tank, wear it, pass and remove it soon afterwards,” another rider said.
In the past, reports have indicated that failure to wear helmets has been due to the foul smell emanating from them due to the near impossibility of having them washed.
But this is majorly on the part of the passenger who should also be given a helmet to put on at any one time.
According to the bodaboda chairperson, there are 14,832 motorbikes operating within Kisii town alone, and the number is growing due to the ease with which owning a motorbike in Kisii comes with.
A random check at any one time, however, reveals that those who do not wear helmets on Kisii roads are the majority.
A report released this month by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), showed that death by bodaboda on Kenyan roads rose by nearly a third from last year’s.
A fatality that NTSA attributes to lawlessness and drunk driving.
Accounting for a 27 per cent increase from last year’s, 684 people have died in motorcycle related accidents in 2019.
According to NTSA, 812 riders sustained serious injuries, up from 408 in 2018 – this, representing a 99 per cent increase. On the other hand, 505 passengers have sustained fatal injuries in 2019, up from 280 of 2018 – representing 80 per cent increase.
In 2018, data by NTSA showed that victims of motor cycle accidents stood at 19 per cent of all road fatalities in Kenya making it the highest road killer.
The government of Kenya wants bodaboda riders to adhere to safety requirements which include wearing protective gears, acquiring a driving license and an insurance.
Helmets have a great potential of protecting one of the most fragile parts of the body – the head – in case of a crush.