OPINIONPeople Daily

Passengers have power to prevent road carnage

A while ago at the Kiamaiko market, the heart of the goat business in the city, I realised the full import of the insult wewe ni mjinga kama mbuzi (literally translates as ‘you are as stupid as a goat’).

And here I watched a  drove of goats being ushered into a slaughterhouse— and one after another they were individually grabbed by the neck and throats slit as the rest watched on; unconcerned, perhaps, unaware of the fate awaiting, they stood  most stood transfixed staring blankly at the bloody carcass of their companion while they went on chewing their last cud. After a while all were dead in a pool of their own blood.

The same can be extended to the slaughter on our roads and callousness of both drivers and passengers. There is little doubt authorities in charge of road safety such as NTSA and Traffic Police department carry the blame as they are officially mandated to ensure sanity on our roads. But as much as we would like to picket and shout, we have little moral authority to do so.

It all starts with the driver. When I took my driving test, the lady before me on the practical test couldn’t drive to save her life, but instead of failing her, the officer, shouted: “I’ll pass you and you can go die on the road!”

The reason hardly anyone ever fails a driving test is because most, if not all, driving schools bribe the examiners. The driving schools care only to attract more learners, whom they guarantee a pass and the driving test instructors care only to line their pockets.

It then follows that a smart person should look out for themselves instead of depending on the hole-riddled system that is the government in much the same way we take personal responsibility for the safety of our homes.

After that experience, every time I get behind the wheel I remind myself that out there somewhere is that lady and many others like her. And that I have only myself to count on as the traffic police care more about apprehending your wallet contents than law breakers.

But what can we do as individuals? The way I see it, we only have two options. The first is to be goat-like and do nothing as the roads turn crimson with the blood, or take a proactive approach. This means that should a situation feel wrong, i.e. the driver seems incompetent, intoxicated, the vehicle is overloaded and speeding or unroadworthy, we should simply avoid it.

Our continued patronage of questionable transport solutions serves only to enable our killers. When John Michuki took on the challenge to bring sanity to our roads the reason he was successful was because he had the people behind him.

Kenyans willingly walked until the transport cartels realised they had no option but change. Kenyans hit them where it hurts, in the bank and they responded. Now, we complain about them while still handing them our hard-earned cash.

Fourteen-seater matatus are back to seating four per row, courtesy of a plank of wood placed between the seats to sambaza the seating area. Passengers are squeezed for the benefit of the matatu owners and like the Kiamaiko goats, accept their fate without protest.

Most matatus have deafening sound systems pounding obscenities into our fragile eardrums and yet every passenger would rather endure the noise than ask the crew to shut it off.

We literally let drivers get away with murder while we, the unwilling passengers, sit silently as we’re driven to our deaths. We must realise that we are the only ones with our interests at heart in this flawed transport system.

The buck may stop with the government agencies, but it starts with us. Otherwise we are all goats on the highway to hell. —@SteveGears

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