Road traffic injuries in Kenya: the health burden and risk factors in two districts

Traffic Inj Prev. 2012:13 Suppl 1:24-30. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2011.633136.


Background: Road traffic injuries (RTIs) contribute to a significant proportion of the burden of disease in Kenya. They also have a significant impact on the social and economic well-being of individuals, their families, and society. However, though estimates quantifying the burden of RTIs in Kenya do exist, most of these studies date back to the early 2000s-more than one decade ago.

Objective: This article aims to present the current status of road safety in Kenya. Using data from the police and vital registration systems in Kenya, we present the current epidemiology of RTIs in the nation. We also sought to assess the status of 3 well-known risk factors for RTIs-speeding and the use of helmets and reflective clothing.

Methods: Data for this study were collected in 2 steps. The first step involved the collection of secondary data from the Kenya traffic police as well as the National Vital Registration System to assess the current trends of RTIs in Kenya. Following this, observational studies were conducted in the Thika and Naivasha districts in Kenya to assess the current status of speeding among all vehicles and the use of helmets and reflective clothing among motorcyclists.

Results: The overall RTI rate in Kenya was 59.96 per 100,000 population in 2009, with vehicle passengers being the most affected. Notably, injuries to motorcyclists increased at an annual rate of approximately 29 percent (95% confidence interval [CI]: 27-32; P < .001). The mean age of death due to road traffic crashes was 35 years. Fatalities due to RTIs increased at an annual rate of 7 percent (95% CI: 6-8; P < .001) for the period 2004 to 2009. Observational studies revealed that 69.45 percent of vehicles in Thika and 34.32 percent of vehicles in Naivasha were speeding. Helmets were used by less than one third of motorcycle drivers in both study districts, with prevalence rates ranging between 3 and 4 percent among passengers.

Conclusions: This study highlights the significant burden of RTIs in Kenya. A renewed focus on addressing this burden is necessary. Focusing on increasing helmet and reflective clothing use and enforcement of speed limits has the potential to prevent a large number of road traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities. However, it is difficult to demonstrate the magnitude of the injury problem to policymakers with minimal or inaccurate data, and this study illustrates the need for national continuous, systematic, and sustainable data collection efforts, echoing similar calls for action throughout the injury literature.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Automobile Driving / psychology*
  • Bicycling / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Head Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motorcycles / statistics & numerical data
  • Protective Clothing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality
  • Young Adult