Blame game. That should be a national sport for the simple fact that Kenyans seldom accept their mistakes and always hold other people responsible for their own shortcomings.
From the top most leadership, to the lowly voter used to being given promises that are not kept, Kenyans never believe that they can be on the wrong — and even when they know they are, they have to blame someone else.
It is almost sinful, a sacrilege for a Kenyan to admit they made a mistake. In that short moment they forget and admit, which is seldom, there are others around them, some of whom they have never met, who will blame someone else, as it happened three days ago when a truck ferrying pick-up trucks to a dealer in Nyeri got stuck under a flyover as its load could not fit through the passageway.
From the photos that went viral, it was clear the truck driver miscalculated the height of his load vis-à-vis that of the underpass, but to Kenyans, the driver was right and it was another entity that had made a mistake. An ignorable accident by all road safety standards in Kenya, because no one got hurt, and the damaged vehicular cargo must have some form of insurance cover, but the incident speaks volumes about Kenyans’ inability to read and understand road safety instructions and reveals how narrow their minds get when they are behind the wheel.
It is not a secret that Kenya’s road safety-related bodies almost never get their calculations right, be it on road design or signage, but road users, and specifically motorists, also have the culture of religiously not observing traffic rules or prioritising safety.
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To many Kenyan motorists, breaking traffic rules, even the most basic, is ingrained in their collective mind. In fact, road safety is an afterthought to driving, and anyone who calls for it is demonised as a trying to make it easier for law enforcers to collect bribes, only that bribery is not a solo act and must have an initiator but in the end, the giver and receiver are morally and legally wrong.
Generally, Kenyans love to decry State’s intrusion in to their lives but ironically, they expect the State to police their every move when behind the wheel — even when drunk — and should an accident happen, they are wired to blame the authorities.
Kenyan motorists will always complain about everything but themselves. It is either about the design or the condition of the road, or generally the rotten system, and the educated among them will support all theories with cherry-picked examples of how safe roads in other countries are.
Of course there are countries where safety systems work, where safety is a priority and where transport infrastructure is designed with the safety of road users in mind.
Of course such should exist in Kenya only that in those other countries, road users also have presence of mind to read, understand, follow instructions and obey traffic rules.
In Kenya, traffic rules — like most laws — are just suggestions, proposals which people are not under any obligation to obey. Thus, road safety rules are thrown out of the window right from the place where they are supposed to be taught: unregulated driving schools.
First, their instructors are hand-picked by proprietors without considering their road safety records or professional qualifications.
There is no denying that the government system is rotten and that is why driving schools openly offer 100 per cent pass rate because they know their way around those who conduct the driving tests.
Sadly, these driving schools do not operate on their own. They are working towards meeting a demand, fulfilling a need, perfectly fitting in to the Kenyan culture and mindset of cutting corners and disdain for following rules. If anything, they are Kenyans, just like the law enforcers who ensure all students pass the three-minute driving test which puts them on the path to getting a licence and literally on the road to harming others.
On road safety, or lack of it thereof, Kenyans are not victims or innocent bystanders in the chaotic system they so passionately hate. They are part of it, nay, they are the system and they run the show.
If they weren’t part of the chaos, how is it that a Kenyan can comfortably park their vehicle under or next to a No Parking signage or on designated pedestrian paths or pavements as they often do in Nairobi even on days when designated parking bays are not occupied?
It can be argued that such acts do not harm other road users, but they show Kenyans dislike for traffic-related rules, a mindset that they have when they are behind the wheel on the highway or other roads.
On poor road safety records, Kenyans must take responsibility for their actions, right from paying extra at driving schools to facilitate and expedite passing a test and getting a licence, to being careless on the highways — and continuously proving that Kenya not only has motorists with bad mannerisms, but also wide roads and narrow minds.
-The writer is and editor at The Standard. Twitter: @mqhlay