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Why there are few accidents in the United Kingdom

LETTERS
By Joseph Ngugi | July 14th 2013

By Joseph Ngugi

Since Mary Ward became the first person in the world to be killed in a car accident in 1869, millions more have died, despite all the efforts to reduce carnage on the roads. Passing a driving test is one of the many efforts by government agencies around the world to ensure safe driving and discipline on the roads. In UK, acquiring a driving licence is considered such an important milestone in one’s life that it is a cause for celebration within the family. Passing the test on first attempt is even considered a feat not so easily achieved by many new drivers. 

On the contrary, acquiring a driving licence in Kenya is considered the easiest thing. In most cases, all one needs is to grease the examiner’s palms. In fact, some people don’t even bother to turn up to be examined. The consequences of cutting corners in this all-important training and examining of drivers are the devastating road carnages that Kenyans have continued to witness.

The United Kingdom’s Driving Standard Agency (DVLA), the body that licences drivers and motor vehicles has disclosed that a 26 years-old-woman from London had indeed failed her driving theory test 90 times, costing her a staggering £3000 (Sh500,000).

The woman had not even started practising for her practical lessons, whose test is even harder and more expensive. Another person who sat the most numbers of practical tests in the UK was a 39-year-old man from the West Midlands. He failed 36 times. The cost of reseating the test was devastating

Shiku Mosses, a Kenyan living in Oxford, says that she passed her driving test on the second attempt. It cost her £600 (Sh76,800) to train. Stacy Munga, another Kenyan living in London says that she too passed her test on second attempt at a cost of £750 (Sh97000).

Nobody in my circle of friends in the UK, it seems, have so far managed to acquire his or her driving licence on first attempt. We are all repeaters.

It is not that some of these learner drivers are dunderheads or blockheads. It is the thoroughness and strictness with which all drivers are examined and tested in this country. The pass rate for the first time candidates is lower than 43 percent.

Driving licence in the UK is not a luxury but rather a necessity. Although the public transport network is superb, some jobs demanded that you have to drive. Losing your licence by dangerous driving will not only make it hard to go to work in time but will also take you back a few thousands of pounds in retraining. Retraining will also take more of your valued time. That is why the driving licence is the second most important thing, from your family, that you do not want to lose even for a single day.

Good driving practice in UK is encouraged and rewarded with attractive goodies like cheap insurance cover. Bad driving practise is heavily discouraged with expensive insurance quotes and severe punishment that carries hefty fines and a possible disqualification. In Kenya, poor driving, training, treacherous road conditions, driving under the influence of alcohol, poorly maintained vehicles and corrupt traffic police are all to blame for the many accidents.

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