An accurate calculation of the real cost of traffic crashes in the country is the first step to curbing the rising incidents of road carnage, a Newsplex data analysis and interviews with key insurance sector insiders and accident victims reveal.

''What we are lacking as a country is a culture on which road safety can thrive, something we can create only if road users understand the cost of their actions or inactions both at the personal and national levels,'' said Brian Akwir, director of the Insurance Institute of Kenya.

The World Health Organization, back in 2014, estimated that Kenya loses about five percent of its GDP or Sh387.5 billion to traffic crashes. The figure was expected to rise and currently is most likely to be above the global average of three percent.

In the first 10 months of 2018, 2,585 people had lost their lives on Kenyan roads, according to the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). This was an 11 percent increase from 2,331, in the same period last year.

The nation's wealth is eaten away through ways such as medical bills, property damage, and injury to or death of economically productive citizens.

As the world marks the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, the country can attempt to estimate the economic cost of road carnage, but the irreparable social and emotional damage on the many disabled by road crashes and families and friends of those killed is grave beyond measure.

The Newsplex analysis of NTSA data shows that the average age of people killed in road crashes is 33 years, confirming that indeed Kenyan roads have taken away many young and productive citizens. Many more have been disabled.

Motor vehicle insurance

There are also sector-specific shocks caused by runaway road carnage. The insurance sector, for instance, has been greatly affected by a rise in claims from motor vehicle owners, many of them arising from traffic accidents. The sector registered claims amounting to Sh26.8 billion in 2017, a 63 percent rise from Sh16.4 billion in 2012, according to the Insurance Regulation Authority.

''Besides the numbers, there is also a rise in rate of claims which is making the business less profitable, and fraudulent claims resulting from motor accidents in particular, is robbing the sector of the resources that should be used to settle genuine claims in good time so that clients' businesses and lives can go on,'' said Akwir.

According to Akwir, the long value chain between the insurance company and the client also leads to delayed settlements of claims if any of the intermediaries fail to do their job properly and efficiently. Actors within this long value chain include surveyors, risk assessors, mediators, motor assessors, investigators and the courts, when need be.

When Joseph Mwenjeri, a Nairobi businessman, was involved in a road accident and his car written off in April this year, it took six months before his claim was settled by the insurance company. During the long wait, his business slowed down. ''Mine was mainly a family car but I also used it to pick up and deliver goods to customers. After losing it in the accident, doing business wasn't as easy, and at times I had to hire transport services, thereby increasing my cost of production,'' he said.

It turned out that the payment had been delayed by the investigator taking too much time to conclude the investigation and file a report.

It takes even longer to settle claims if matters end up in court. Court records show that there are court cases on insurance claims that have been pending for decades.

Worse than the delay in payments are instances when motor owners or passengers go without any financial compensation in the event that the vehicle involved in an accident is not insured or the claim is rejected on a technicality.

''To improve consumer satisfaction, we encourage consumers to be aware of what they are buying and to understand the contract they are getting into, making sure it meets their needs,'' said Godfrey Kiptum, acting CEO of the Insurance Regulatory Authority.

Kiptum said the authority receives about 2,000 complaints every year, out of hundreds of thousands of policy sold annually.

Endless pain

As the world marks the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, the country can attempt to estimate the economic cost of road carnage, but the irreparable social and emotional damage on the many disabled by road crashes and families and friends of those killed is grave beyond measure.

Accidents with mass casualties draw extensive media coverage and public attention and sympathy. But as soon as the media spotlight moves on, the public too moves with it, leaving those directly affected by the deaths in painful solitude.

A decade ago, Rose Wafula, a 59-year-old mother of four who lives in Nairobi, lost her second-born daughter when a bus plunged into a river on the Busia-Kisumu road and claimed the lives of all the 15 passengers. Jane Nanjala, 27, had been in her first job in Kakamega town for only two months when she was transferred to Busia. She decided to take a few days, of the five she had been given to relocate, to see her family in Nairobi, en route to Busia.

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