If you’re reading this, congratulations on taking the first step in this journey of adulthood and self-reliance. Driving from the passenger side looks fun and exhilarating, that’s until you take a hold of the steering wheel. But don’t be scared, here’s what to expect:
1. Driving school is tedious
By law, we are instructed to attend a credited driving school to learn the art of driving. Problem comes in with the Kenyan driving schools and how they are borderline tedious. Some of the things they teach you in class do not really apply in our beautiful Kenya but alas we listen anyway.
You will encounter the hated board. This board is a replica of our Kenyan roads, usually the highways and the driving instructor shows you how to change lanes, make turns, etc. They even put up road blocks and ask you to navigate your tiny toy car out of the problem. Well, some of the scenarios are downright impossible but it gives you a play by play of how to react when something happens.
2. The road signs book
I went to driving school many years ago but I still remember the road signs book that I was asked to purchase before I began my classes. Lord knows how many of those signs we actually use in Kenya but that little book can either make or break you. During classes, the instructor will point out at a road sign and you are expected to know what it indicates. The most common are the roundabout, right/left turn, no right or left turn, no U-turn and bumps ahead. With time you will learn all of them by heart, don’t stress
Most of the driving schools in Kenya conduct their practicals using manual cars. Yes, the stick shift and clutch will be part of your life. You will learn very quickly that you need to step on the clutch as if it owes you money, most clutches are pretty tough so some serious lower body strength is needed. Don’t fear, your instructor has his own set of pedals on the passenger side, so if you do forget which pedal stops the car, he will stop it before hitting another car.
Do you remember how you’d admire your father or another driver changing the gears like a pr? It’s your time to shine now. Bring out your inner race car driver. You will learn ‘The dance’ this is the constant movement of your legs between all the pedals. We’ll discuss how to drive a manual in more detail later on. Usually, after you master the manual you move to the automatic car. They arent as much fun to drive but that's probably what you'll end up driving for the rest of your life.
4. The roads are a dangerous place
No need to hide it from you, the roads are treacherous. If you think things were bad as a passenger, they are about to be worse as a driver. Once you start driving around you will learn every single driver out there is a mental asylum escapee. No regard at all for road and traffic laws. It’s like a market place of craziness. The best part is that in a few weeks, you will also be a lunatic, it’s just kinda how it is. Matatus will be your greatest enemy, they will test every single nerve you have, they will attack your patience and they will endanger your car. Best way to deal with them, just let them pass, may they take their insanity somewhere else. The matatu crew insanity is closely followed by motorbike riders and then the other personal cars.
5. The final exam
Everyone has their own tale how their driving exam went. Mine was one of the nicer ones, I met an amazing lady cop, who was extremely motherly. The board exam was simple and she didn’t hustle me when it came to changing gears. My exam literally took half an hour and 3 weeks later I had my license. Now for others, their experience is a bit traumatic, they find horrible examiners who are seemingly intent on failing them. Your best bet is to be extremely nice and don’t try to correct them. The nicer you are the faster the exam and you can leave with all your marbles still attached.
These are some of the things you will experience when learning how to drive. Not too bad actually, the real test comes in when you are in your new car on Uhuru Highway and there isn’t any traffic cop in sight. Remember the pedal on the left is the brake, pushing the steering wheel inwards doesnt stop the car. May the Hunger Games begin, goodluck.