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Empowering matatu passengers

Shanta Devarajan's picture

In low-income countries, road traffic accidents account for 3.7 percent of deaths, twice as high as deaths due to malaria.  Anyone who has traveled in Kenya won’t be surprised to hear that 20 percent of recorded crashes involve matatus, the private buses that careen around the city.  Billy Jack and James Habyarimana have a fascinating impact evaluation where they randomly put posters in matatus encouraging passengers to “heckle and chide” the driver if he is driving too fast or recklessly.  The idea is that the posters solve a collective action problem:  most passengers don’t like being driven dangerously, but individually they’re reluctant to speak up.  Their preliminary results are impressive:  the frequency of road traffic accidents in a 12-month period was one quarter in the treatment group compared with the control group (those without posters).


In South Africa we have the same problem with taxi drivers of mini buses.These mini buses are privately owned and the problem arose from the owners of the taxi buses(some of them own whole fleets) and they would employ drivers for their taxi buses and the arrangement would be that they could keep whatever income they derived after a certain amount for e.g. ZAR 5000.00.So this created the problem where the drivers would drive at break neck speeds to make as many loads in the morning get to work traffic and the same in the afternoons obviously in a bid to increase their income. Another cause of accidents was the fact that the mini buses were never serviced properly due to the fact that taking them off the road for a day was loss in earnings and also because the drivers of the taxi buses did not own the taxis,proper care was not taken of the taxis. To alleviate these above problems the South African government offered a cash amount to all taxi registered owners to upgrade their taxis so that the vehicles were safer and set a standard as to which vehiclec could be used as a taxi.This has helped but many taxi drivers are now asking for a bigger cash amount.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Well, one can't say that the changes are due to the posters .. To begin with, the Matatu drivers who allowed the posters to be displayed in their cars may be 'responsible' drivers who want the messages to be displayed -- not necessarily b/c they beileved on the possible impacts. on the other hand, the aggressive drivers may have refused to display the posters as they be irresponsible ones who only look after money and adventure from dtiviing fast. Did the authors not get any refusal to display the posters at all?

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