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Why are we playing Russian roulette on our roads?

By Angela Ambitho | January 6th 2013 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By Angela Ambitho

There was once a daredevil sparrow that often stretched the limits and seldom listened to wise counsel of the old owls and the clouds. Only the falcons and eagles were allowed to soar the skies while other birds were only permitted to fly above the tall trees. The incorrigible sparrow could hear none of this.

Every time he was in motion he tried to fly higher and faster. The overly cautious clouds would shout him back to the lower levels. One fateful day, while out flying, the sparrow decided to throw caution to the wind and fly out of bounds. No sooner had he soared above the clouds than he realised he had made a grave mistake.

He felt dizzy and weak from the rays of the scorching sun. He tried retreating back to safer skies, but it was too late, his recklessness was going to cause his untimely death. 

Having been on most of our main highways in December, I can confidently aver that Kenyan motorists ape the sparrow’s behavior in many ways. Several road users seem to have adopted a no-holds barred attitude disobeying traffic laws at every turn and pushing their cars to perform speeds that while may thrill will inevitably kill.

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So shocking is the manner with which buses, trucks and passenger vehicles overtake that one would be inclined to believe that careless overtaking is more a rule of thumb; rather than an occasional necessitated act. Motorists overtake on bends and blind spots; when oncoming vehicles are in the line of sight; when rain and fog blind their visibility; where they know that their engines cannot efficiently match that of the cars they are keen to overtake; they just overtake any which way how.

Their behavior is concomitant to that of the sparrow following the falcon to higher skies without questioning its capacity to do so. 

As I observed this abnormal behavior on our roads, random thoughts and questions crossed my mind. Is this daredevil syndrome innate in us or has death become so demystified that we have no fear at all in courting it? Are we in a greater hurry to get wherever we are going than other global citizens or are we merely poor planners? Have we become such self-centered neurotics that greed takes precedence over preserving life? Have we so lost our personal identity that we blindly follow the crowd even to our own detriment? Do we truly know and understand the Highway Code and traffic rules? Whatever the case, many Kenyan motorists seem to be playing Russian roulette on our roads. 

Cynics may be quick to argue that road safety campaigns have become a cliché and add no value. But I believe that positive behavior change cannot be achieved without persistent reinforcement.

Messages on the importance of road safety and the tenets of the Highway Code must be repetitively harped into our ears until the chickens come home to roost. That way we will remember that we should give clear signals well in advance; we have to acquaint ourselves with road signs and respect them religiously; we must know when overtaking is acceptable and when it is forbidden and lastly we must be conversant with the highway speed limits.

Considering that many are the drivers who possess back door driving licenses and fewer are the traffic cops who reinforce the law, the onus is on all of us to become more vigilant on our roads. As pedestrians and passengers, we shouldn’t falsely believe that motorists are omniscient; they are human and susceptible to err. As motorists, we should only get behind the wheel when we have clarity of thought and vision.

We must accept that we are unfit to drive when our minds are bogged with thought or adulterated with alcohol and/ or drugs.  We should also shun the wanton disregard for highway laws. As we ply our roads, it is imperative for us to learn from the sparrow who realized only too late that ‘haste and hurry can only bear children with many regrets.”

The writer is the founder and CEO of Infotrak Research and Consulting



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