A little road courtesy goes a long way


There isn’t a single page in the Highway Code dealing with the unwritten rules of the road (otherwise, they would not be unwritten).

That is a problem because too often, they go unobserved much to the chagrin of those of us who are cultured on the road. By exercising road courtesy, we can avoid courting road rage.

These will not come as ground-breaking revelations but will serve as good reminders of common sense and courtesy to keep you from trouble on the road.

Your small car with an engine the size of a small suitcase will be thoroughly smoked by SUVs and those Mitsubishi or Subaru monsters next to you if the driver so chooses. So, please don’t provoke him into a race you can’t possibly win. When someone has a superior car, you know your place; stick to it.

Another unwritten rule is that how and where you park your car matters. The lines in a parking lot are there for a reason: Stay between them — evenly — and you will minimise scratching other people’s cars as you persuade your potbelly out of your jalopy.

If you have not tried getting around on two wheels, you ought to give it a shot. Bikes and motorcycles each deliver a unique riding experience that cannot be duplicated from behind the wheel of a car.

But until you are outside the four-wheel isolation chamber, you will not appreciate the downside to cycling and the treatment the cyclists suffer. If being cut off or followed closely in a car is annoying, it can get downright frightening on a bike.

There is nothing wrong with a healthy sense of self-preservation, but it is okay to offer help when someone is stranded on the road.


A female relative of mine once had the misfortune of having a puncture on Nairobi’s Lang’ata Road, just before the Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters. She got out and removed the cross spanner as an indication that she needed help in changing a tyre.

However, most male drivers just flew by; some even accelerated on seeing the cross spanner. (See what happens when you watch too many American movies where the cross spanner is used as a weapon when mugging motorists?)

Most of the new highways have signs beseeching motorists to keep left unless overtaking. But this has not stopped people from mindlessly crawling along on the wrong lane.

Try that on the German autobahn, and you will come home without a vital organ or two. When someone will not relinquish lane dominance, other drivers’ patience runs understandably thin, and things can get dangerous, with risky attempts to squeeze past.

As much as we despise those who cause bottlenecks on the road, there is no excuse for jumping the queue either. As you approach junctions or lane closures, do not be a self-centred fool. Honestly, if you save any time at all, it is usually negligible, and not worth the curses from the other drivers, most of whom wish they had guns with which to blow you to smithereens.

The biggest unwritten rule of the road is driving at the speed of traffic and consistently staying within a five-to-ten-kph range. This is not an ‘everyone else is doing it’ endorsement of speeding; all I am saying here is that you should not go too slow or too fast.The idea is that going with the flow keeps the flow going. You do not get stuck in clusters of cars or create them, while reducing the risk of collisions between vehicles traveling at different speeds. That is why cars in a presidential motorcade never collide with each other despite being driven at breakneck speed.