The rule of the road

Rohit Vadhwana Thursday 15th February 2024 04:28 EST

On 8th October 2023, the world watched a panther-like runner jetting towards the finishing line, to smash the world record set only a year ago in Berlin. Kelvin Kiptum, a 23-year-old Kenyan runner who was running only the third of his career marathon leapt to finish the longest race in Chicago in a record time of 2 hours 35 seconds, by smashing finishing 34 seconds earlier than the previous record set by another Kenyan marathoner Eluid Kipchoge in Berlin. 

As the champion Kiptum was aiming to break the 2-hour barrier in the marathon this year, the sad news of his accidental death shocked the world. On 11th February Sunday night, Kelvin Kiptum died in a road accident along with his Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana. The car veered off the road and hit a tree before plunging into a deep ditch 60 meters away. This unfortunate road accident tells us a lot about how we drive and how safe our roads are. We have lost many champions, record makers, thought leaders, business tycoons and who-is-who-type personalities in road accidents. Rippling debates in newspapers about road safety, such accidents are forgotten in a short period. 

Even now, the death of Kelvin Kiptum will create shock waves but the shattered dreams of him creating a new record in the upcoming Paris Marathon, and building a house for his family this June, will never be fulfilled in his absence. We are compelled to think if this was an avoidable death. Could he be driving slowly, or more carefully? Or was it anyone else's fault that could have been avoided? Were the roads dangerous for the safety of motorists? WHO website mentions that 1.9 million people die of traffic crashes every year, and 20 to 50 million suffer non-fatal injuries. Road accidents create permanent disabilities in many. Males are 3 times more prone to death by road accidents than females, mainly because they drive more. Similarly, road injuries are a leading cause of death for children and youth between 5 to 29 years. Whopping 92% of such fatalities occur in low and middle-income countries even though they own less than 60% of total vehicles. It is also appalling that pedestrians and cyclists are also a major group suffering accidental injuries or fatalities. 

All these facts, along with the horrific accident that took the life of Kelvin Kiptum compels us to re-think the way we use our roads and vehicles. 

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