It’s easy to drone into a sense of comfort if you drive the same car on the same road, going to the same place every day twice a day. To be fair, most people only use their cars for the daily commute.
Experts who can calculate such things say most accidents happen on roads we’re familiar with. We are naturally more careful on roads we don’t drive on regularly; observing road signs more diligently and more wary of the traffic cops and traffic thieves – which in Kenya is more or less the same profession.
Last Saturday I had to go to Mai Mahiu to cover a Time Trial Event. I say had because I don’t know of anyone in their right mind who likes to go down, or up, that bumpy precipitous traffic-clogged road. No wonder a church was built midway so you could pull over, thank God for how far He’d brought you and ask Him to keep you safe for the rest of the journey. Every single time I drive along that road I witness at least one accident.
I wasn’t looking forward to this trip especially as I had only my trusty ‘94 carburetor-fed JLX Suzuki. It had only recently had an engine overhaul and something wasn’t quite right. I feared a breakdown on that road but having no alternative, I was on the road by 7am. Anyone who’s ever driven a JLX can attest to how jiggly and rough the ride can be on a rough road. I’d have to stop by the chapel and pray for my spine.
Then there’s the perennial traffic composed mainly of trucks having diverted from the A104 highway.
The one’s going down, my direction, are loaded, slow and use up a lot of the brakes, which heat up and sometimes fail, causing an accident and tail back on the narrow road: a situation I soon drove into.
Since I advocate not driving like an ass I stayed put as others overlapped, compounding the mess.
Driving in Kenya is increasingly an extreme sport, akin to rock climbing while on fire or mud wrestling a crocodile. Mainly, it’s because most people licensed to drive couldn’t give a rodent’s posterior about it.
They’re therefore callous, casual and dangerous behind the wheel.
Conversely, the event I was headed to was brimming with petrolheads. Some of them known to me and would rather take a matatu during the week and use that money for weekend drives. They spend their rent money on modding their cars with an endless and increasingly expensive list of upgrades.
I know a man who’d admitted to buying brakes for his Starlet instead of baby food. I’d thought him perfidious were it not for his wife. She was holding the said baby at a loud car-meet on a cold evening gleefully confirming it.
Back on the road, I could have very easily overlapped in my rugged mountain goat of a car but the longer I sat behind the motionless petroleum trailer, the more intense and palpable the pride in doing the right thing became. I suppose this is what committing to an exercise regimen feels like, painful yet satisfying.
Although I could not see the other drivers who’d chosen not to overlap, I could feel a warmly shared hatred ebbing at those who did. We hoped silently that all manner of motoring mishaps may befall them, or at the very least, they’d drive right into the arms of a greedy policeman. As with all things, change really does begin with individuals and we can make the decision to be considerate and patient drivers. Or we can decide to be an ass on the road.
The journey was interminable and testing and while at the two-day event I could see the traffic snaking along the escarpment, a constant reminder that my patience would soon face an uphill task, literally.
While watching the racers, some who’d ferried their machines on flatbed lorries, I could appreciate the difference love makes.
On the track they were monsters, gunning their turbocharged cars around the karting track at violent speeds to the accompaniment of wailing tyres and barking engines. And yet they were the most respectful on the road. Leading me to the conclusion that if the government wants to make all roads better, all it needs to do is encourage more car enthusiasts. The problem has always been the entitled idiots who overlap while uploading their lunch to Instagram. They should have their licenses revoked, cars crushed and made to use the bus.