Plan to deregister driving schools good, it should have come earlier

There is conclusive research that most of the accidents on the Kenyan roads are attributable to human error. And so obviously, the plan to close down many of the institutions that train drivers can be seen as a way, no less significant, to end the loss of lives on the road.

The Ministry of Interior is engaging in a lost throw of the dice to save precious Kenyan life. To most Kenyans who have lost loved ones in accidents, this should have come a lot earlier.

Last year, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), in a bid to rein in these institutions, unsuccessfully tried to introduce a new curriculum with wide ranging proposals on the running of driving schools.

A court quashed these proposals, which included a requirement that driving schools develop complexes with an office, a model highway, a well-equipped class with ICT aids and at least have a management structure.

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It is true that the technology in use is as good as those using it. Despite the array of revolutionary safety mechanisms introduced in the modern car like airbags, pre-collision assist or pedestrian detection and intelligent speed limiter technologies, the ghastly road accidents point to man as the weakest link in the road safety equation.

That needed to change, and it probably informs the new policy direction. Each year, accidents cost the economy nearly Sh400 billion, according to the NTSA. That is about 5.6 per cent of the country’s GDP. Annually, an estimated 3,000 people die on Kenyan roads.

Thousands of others get maimed and remain impaired, physically challenged and dependent for the rest of their lives. That needs to stop.These are lacking in most of the driving schools in most towns. To start a driving school, all that it takes one is single room, between 3-5 rickety vehicles (perhaps recovered from accidents) and a few untested instructors and, voila!

Apart from a few of them, in truth, a lot of what goes on in these driving schools is scandalous. The students are never really taken through proper training. They spend very little time behind the wheel.

Even where that exists, training on interpersonal skills like courtesy, kindness and patience, key ingredients for a pleasant driving experience lack. To some extent, the loss of limb and life besides the high pressure from the inherent culture of road rage and maniacal behaviour is attributed to this.

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An angry driver is likely to cause an accident than a jolly one. Hence the outbreak of bad behaviour on the roads should concern everyone. Indeed, being behind the wheel brings out the worst in a lot of Kenyans. They are rude and disrespectful, foulmouthed and will cut into other motorists’ lanes without much care.

Moreover, beyond learning to move the vehicle from point A to B, these learners will graduate with no skill in safety, how to administer First Aid or even how to change a wheel.

Yet to imagine that closing driving schools will of itself end the road carnage is to miss the point. For example, road designs and erection of unmarked speed dumps need to be priority. The facelift that includes barriers on the notorious 22-Km Salgaa-Sobea-Mau summit will contribute to lesser accidents on a black spot blamed for the death of hundreds of Kenyans.

Students should be trained on such skills such as emotional intelligence which in itself equips the learner with the ability to engage sensibly with other motorists on the roads.

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NTSADriving schoolsRoad Carnage