Leveraging data to minimize road traffic accidents - Beaking Kenya News

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Monday, 11 January 2021

Leveraging data to minimize road traffic accidents


Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows crash injuries account for more than 1.3M fatalities around the world today, more than the number of people who succumb to HIV/AIDS. 

Tragically, the crash death rate in low- and middle-income countries is more than thrice that of high-income countries. This is despite the fact that these countries only account for 60 per cent of the world’s registered motor vehicles.  

Recent statistics from Kenya’s National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) paint an equally grim picture.

NTSA estimates that 3,000 Kenyans die from road accidents every year - costing the country anywhere between 3-5 per cent of GDP. 83 per cent of the fatalities are men, with individuals aged between 30-34 years leading most at risk.

Many of the accidents occur over the weekends, with the hours 5PM-8AM being particularly deadly.

In 2019, commercial vehicles, private cars and motorcycles accounted for over two-thirds of road accident fatalities. 

Not surprisingly, insurance companies are feeling the heat too. In 2019, data from the Association of Kenya Insurers (AKI) revealed that 70 per cent of the 36 companies that underwrote motor policies made losses.

This marked the industry’s fifth consecutive year in the red due to a myriad of factors including increased fraud as well as premium undercutting. This is particularly worrisome given that motor insurance has traditionally been a growth segment for general insurance.  

According to experts, a major contributor to Africa’s high rate of road accidents is the substandard enactment of road safety laws in line with global best practices.

 For example, less than a third of African countries have seat belt laws and fewer still have regulations that prohibit drunk driving. Even where the laws are in place, measures to support enforcement and compliance are weak.  

In Kenya, it’s all too common to witness motorists blatantly flaunting traffic rules – with public service and commercial vehicles being the most visible.

Given that we live in a digital age, it’s possible to fit vehicles with smart devices that go beyond tracking and regulating speed) to incorporate artificial intelligence that will improve commuting outcomes.

The Nauto platform that’s been deployed in commercial fleets in the U.S. is a perfect example of how machine learning and in-vehicle sensors can be combined to detect driver behavior such as distracted driving, drowsiness, tail-gating, haphazard acceleration, braking, among others.

A similar system by National Grid, a provider of natural gas and electricity in the U.S.  has led to a 94 per cent reduction in collisions over an 8-year period  

Locally, Heritage Insurance launched an innovative insurance product in 2019 that not only collects data from Kenyan motorists to build profiles around their on-road behavior but also incentivizes road safety by allowing drivers to earn redeemable points and premium discounts on renewal.

 At scale, such products could drive significant reductions in road fatalities and nudge individuals towards better driving behavior.  

At present, our approach to coalescing data on road safety at a national level is dependent on consolidating sources from different bodies to produce official statistics and guide road safety policy interventions.

Unfortunately, the number of accidents and casualties do not themselves give any information about the nature of risks or underlying causes. These are additional areas in which big data analytics can play a major role, pulling multiple data points to improve the precision of interventions designed at curbing accidents.  

The Intelligent Transport System piloted by Huawei in Kenya is a notable example of this. It leverages real-time traffic monitoring and artificial intelligence to ease traffic flow by coordinating signals across multiple junctions as well as monitoring instances of reckless driving.  

Data will provide traffic managers with a good view of the roads and use intelligent analytics that provides monitoring to manage traffic flows and encourage safe road usage by motorists. 

 At a commuter level, data aggregated across multiple sources can help increase agency – making it possible for individuals to make better decisions when it comes to selecting between various transit options. 

In a nutshell, data-driven traffic management has the opportunity to not only save lives but also enhance the quality of life for Kenyans.  

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