Signs of empowerment?


Passenger don’t always feel safe on the traditionally over-crowded public minibuses (matatus) in Kenya.

Could evocative signage empower and motivate passengers to speak up against bad drivers, and thus increase their own safety?


Signage Traffic UX

Matatus are a popular form of public transport in Kenya, integral to the daily lives of millions of Kenyans. The term “matatu” comes from the Swahili word for “three,” originally referring to the fare of three shillings during their early days of operation.

The privately-owned minivans and are known for their vibrant decorations, and loud music. However, they don’t always have a reputation for safety.

AI Generated

Although official data are incomplete, 14 seater minibuses, or matatus, are believed to be involved in, and indeed to cause, a large share of the over‐3,000 road deaths in Kenya each year. Traditionally over‐crowded and under‐capitalized, matatus were notorious for careening along Kenya’s roads, from the highways joining the Indian Ocean coast with Lake Victoria deep in the interior, to the crowded streets of the capital Nairobi and the country’s larger cities of Mombasa and Kisumu

STATE VS CONSUMER REGULATION:
AN EVALUATION OF TWO ROAD SAFETY INTERVENTIONS IN KENYA

James Habyarimana, William Jack

A group of researchers looked at using evocative signage to to empower and motivate passengers to speak up against bad drivers. Could this type of safety sign not just provide a warning, but also cause a change in the demeanour and confidence of a passenger?

The intervention was simple and cheap: stickers with evocative messages intended to motivate passengers to take demonstrative action ‐ to “heckle and chide” a dangerous driver ‐ were placed in about half of roughly 2,300 recruited matatus. The stickers included graphic images of injuries, and text in English and Kiswahili encouraging passengers to “Don’t just sit there! Stand up! Speak up!”

STATE VS CONSUMER REGULATION:
AN EVALUATION OF TWO ROAD SAFETY INTERVENTIONS IN KENYA

James Habyarimana, William Jack

In 2016, NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast took a look at the Kenyan example in an episode that featured a look at “the unintended consequences of trying to fix traffic.”

“Many city buses have signs to the effect of “Don’t disturb the driver.” Kenya took the opposite approach. They posted signs in minivans encouraging passengers to “heckle and chide” the drivers when they witnessed unsafe driving. It worked. Accidents went down, although as the authors note, there could be several explanations in addition to voluble backseat drivers.”

NPR/Hidden Brain – The Unintended Consequences Of Trying To Fix Traffic