FOR many people on the main road from Meru to Nairobi, rickshaws are not a new sight to them.
They are called ‘Road Planes’ due to the speed at which they are driven by their drivers. Although many liken them to the cars that participate in the Safari Rally competition, the high speed has often turned deadly for drivers and road users who use them.
First, the drivers say that the reason for transporting the vehicles at high speed is to ensure that the loaded tires are not damaged by sitting too long.
They say that its users—mostly from the Somali, Borana and other communities in the northeast of the country—like the product when it is not too dry after being harvested from the field.
“Its users like to use the product while it is still moist, because that is what makes it sweet and attractive among those users,” said Mr Maurice Mutwiri, who has been a driver of these cars for a long time.
He says that this is what makes the drivers of these cars drive them fast, because there is always a risk that their users will not buy them, if it has been sitting for a long time after being harvested.
“Not once have we had to throw away a large load of the product we transported from Meru to Nairobi for not attracting consumers. Therefore, we always make sure that you arrive in the city within 24 hours after being picked,” he said.
However, the speed at which these vehicles have been driven has been cited as contributing to many accidents, which later lead to the deaths of their drivers and road users. For example, on Saturday, two people escaped death at Nyangati commercial centre, Kirinyaga County, on the Mwea-Embu road, after a miraa delivery vehicle lost speed and hit a saloon car.
According to Mrs. Agnes Wangechi, who is a resident of the area, the accident is just one of many that have been happening, especially on the Embu-Mwea road.
“It is fortunate that there was no disaster in this accident. The sad thing is that, he never misses a disaster or serious injuries in every accident caused by vehicles transporting miraa,” he said.
According to the residents who spoke to the press, it is time for the government to put in place strategies to ensure smooth transportation of the product. According to Dr. Mbugua Njenga, who is a crop expert, there is a need for the government to insist that the vehicles be refrigerated to ensure that they do not have to be driven at high speed to deliver the crop to its users.
“Scientifically, the miraa crop cannot lose the sweetness or flavor contained in its juice, if it can be stored in refrigerators. That is the only way the government can take to ensure smooth transportation of the product. This will also reduce the number of accidents involving these vehicles,” he said.