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Of slow drivers and road rage…

I have been told that I have road rage but I refute the claim completely. Road rage implies overreaction to something perfectly reasonable. And is it not reasonable to get angry when someone disregards common decency just because they can?

It is common sense that while driving, one should pay attention to everything around them. That is understandable to any human who is not a certified nincompoop.

If someone is driving while talking on the phone, they really don’t understand the dangers they put themselves and the rest of us in, and if they do, they don’t care. Which makes them not only suicidal but criminally negligent as well. Such people should be apprehended and their cars taken away to be recycled into lampposts.

Every country has a driving culture and majority of Kenyan drivers are consciously reckless at best. For instance it is reasonable to answer your phone while stuck in traffic, not that one should admit to doing such a thing. But it is another matter entirely to start driving off from a stationary point while on the phone. I have seen people get into their cars while talking on the phone, and instead of finishing the call then setting off, they just set off while on the phone!

The irony is that they sometimes take the time to buckle up awkwardly with one hand, because safety first. Another curious thing about the majority is that they litter thoughtlessly from their cars.

Kenyans love to go on about how the city council can’t keep the streets clean, yet will have no qualms about chucking a sweet wrapper or cigarette butt out of the window. While some may argue that a banana peel flung from a moving vehicle will soon decompose, it is an eyesore, nonetheless.

Yet, litterers and people who talk on their phones are not the most selfish and dangerously inconsiderate drivers on Kenyan roads. That dubious distinction belongs to slow drivers! Speed is a complex topic and unfortunately the official simple-minded approach to speed in Kenya is that it is bad and anyone driving fast is dangerous.

This is true enough but my beef with that is that it then allows for people to needlessly drive slowly with no consequences whatsoever! In Kenya you cannot be arrested for driving slowly as there are no minimum speed limits on our roads.

Minimum speed limits in developed countries keep traffic flow consistent and smooth, which reduce chances of an accident while accelerating and braking. Smooth flowing cars on the highway are at their most efficient and that’s why highways are also known as expressways. If the speed limit is 100kph on a clear road at 2 am, it is fine to drive even at 30kph.

However on the same road at rush hour, doing 30kph is insensitive to the plight of drivers who are in a rush and are stuck behind you. On a highway, two cars driving at 30 kph side by side can hold up traffic for kilometres behind them.

This past week, I have hooted furiously while making contorted faces at about 5 slow drivers, who as it turns out were mostly on the phone. Others seem lost in thought and unaware of their speed while others are simply enjoying animated conversations with their car mates. No matter the reason, the result of slow drivers is increasingly angry drivers behind you.

This nasty habbit reeks of self-importance that since you are not in a rush to get somewhere, no no else matters. The more reasonable thing to do would be to get off the road until you can drive at normal speeds.

Even better, don’t start a 30-minute drive an hour early: just because you can legally drive at 10kph doesn’t mean that you should do that. In the kangaroo court of public opinion, speed is a contentious issue, ignoring plainly evident truth such as the limitless Autobahn in Germany where the rate of fatalities is nearly half of roads with speed limits.

The most painful thing, however, is that the NTSA and traffic police know all these things, yet there is not a single minimum speed limit sign on our roads.

More and more cities around the world are penalising drivers for driving too slowly, once we are done with the never ending political fiasco, maybe we should reassess the common sense laws that govern driver behaviour. I propose that anyone going below half the speed limit be jailed for life, obviously because have too much time to waste.

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