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License to kill?

Stephen Mbuthi @SteveGears

When you are born into a country, it’s immediately understood that you will abide by the land’s laws and contribute to its overall betterment. When you turn 18, it is understood that the consequences of not following said laws will at the least, result in heavy penalties and at the most jail time.

Now if I could choose which country to be born into, I’d still choose Kenya and I’d still have this seething love-hate relationship with my country. I’m both very happy and relieved to see the new year in a fragile semblance of normalcy.

The politics could have veered us off the somewhat sane and comparatively peaceful path that Kenya ha been forging since independence. Thankfully, this is not a political column and I can’t begin to pretend I understand anything about it or have an opinion on the subject.

Unfortunately politics is inextricably linked to driving, and unfortunately for us, the politicians have no idea what they are doing. Granted, there needs to be some government body that sets about the parameters we should all follow while behind the wheel.

But the people who run the respective regulatory bodies should first and foremost be driving enthusiasts. Without a deep appreciation for the subtleties of motoring the policies set by NTSA and the Traffic Police division are not only impractical but dangerous too.

We are soon to be issued with the new driving license, a complete waste of time that changes nothing on the road. It’s like applying make-up on a dead horse and expecting it to win the derby. The problem starts with driver training and stops with the driver’s attitude.

Driving schools teach the basic skills needed to get a car moving while ignoring the obvious. For instance how many of you dear readers were trained on driving at night? I’ll hazard a guess and say none. And yet it goes dark every evening and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

But the politicians and traffic police don’t seem to understand this. It naturally follows that before being issued with a license, one should demonstrate they can drive at night. The same applies for all weather and road conditions and the types of vehicles you’re likely to ever drive.

Furthermore, it’s common knowledge that driving schools grease the palms of the officers tasked with driving tests. As I type this there’s a discussion on twitter on how long their driving tests took.

Most average about 10 seconds on the board, 3 questions on basic traffic signs and at most 15 seconds of actual driving. When I took my test there was this sweet lady who couldn’t really drive if her life depended on it.

She knew what the parts were all right, but she didn’t seem to understand how they worked together. As a result we were treated to extreme juddering before the examining officer kicked her out of the vehicle.

His words followed her down the lorry’s steps, “I’ll pass you and you can go die on the road!” Talk about being taken for a ride! So the reality of the Kenyan driver is that you can’t trust the driving schools to train you sufficiently and the only thing NTSA can be trusted to do is give us plastic licenses to mask the imprudence with which they handle motoring issues. The only plausible alternative left is to be as good a driver as you can be.

Over time hone your skills and appreciate the car’s abilities and limits. If you do this regularly, you will doubtlessly take more care of your car, ensuring it’s in tip top shape, minding the ever changing driving conditions and in no time become a driving enthusiast.

The essential thing to understand is that the driving license is an intense responsibility. I was once on a bus somewhere around Kitale, sat at the very front when a dog suddenly decided cross the road.

We were sufficiently far off so the driver didn’t need to slow down only to my surprise; he sped up and knocked it dead. I concluded that if karma works the man would reincarnate as a dog to be run over by a bus driven by the now deceased dog.

Clearly the man was bored out of his mind and saw the dog killing as a way to amuse his obviously fragile ego. The remainder of the journey was spent hoping he didn’t get so bored as to consider running over a man.

If you don’t like driving don’t become a driver! It’s very simple. Do anything else but driving. If you need to go somewhere, use a cab or a matatu or even ride a bike. Don’t subject the rest of us to lethargic incompetence when you would rather be knitting or killing a dog.

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