Mannerless driving from all quarters

Published on 03/05/2009

By Tony Ngare

In the last few weeks the country has witnessed all sorts of explosions — violence from Kibera to Mathira; insincerity among our leaders; power games in Government and cheap talk about a snap election. And lately we have witnessed an explosion of mannerless driving on the road.

Now we are not talking about the matatus. No. We have long agreed that matatus operate on a different highway code from the rest of us.

So who are these fellows whom we would ordinarily expect to behave like the rest of us?

Hurray for opening day

We will all breathe a sigh of relief when schools open tomorrow. School children drivers have for the past month caused many of us to panic and land in ditches. If you have been an alert driver, you must have realised there were numerous youngsters especially on Sunday afternoons on our roads.

These little brats may know how to drive, but their adolescent hot blood lets them down. Once they are at the steering wheel, they feel as if they are on top of the world. One needs to point out to them that while driving, one is just a few inches above the ground.

Most of these guys drive with music blaring and tinted windows rolled up just in case they come across a hawk-eyed traffic policeman. They lack any modicum of road courtesy, which is rather unfortunate considering the motorist behind them could be their mother.

Eastleigh posse

I can safely state that some nationals of a neighbouring country are some of the most reckless drivers in town. Well, to be fair, there are a few whose driving is acceptable, but these are few and far between. Majority of the Eastleigh brothers can leave you petrified by the way they conduct themselves on the road.

These guys rarely give you way. It is as if they are operating on a six-hour day, rushing to deliver all sorts of goods to various destinations. Should you be driving side by side in traffic, you are advised to keep your windows shut, otherwise you run the risk of encountering a stray shot of phlegm.

Of course if you have been to Baidoa or Jowhar, you do realise that vehicles stop abruptly anywhere in those towns. But I am still wondering why these guys would try the same stunt in the middle of a major road like Tom Mboya Street in Nairobi or Mama Ngina Drive in Mombasa.

I am told if you were to venture into Eastleigh, you have to abandon the Highway Code all together and learn to swim with the sharks. In that area, anything goes and drivers do not necessarily drive on the left.

The rule of thumb is you pass where you think your vehicle can fit and survive the potholes at the same time. Little wonder then that when these guys get into areas where there is law and order, they quickly stand out from the crowd.

Family car menace

Now if there is another category of drivers with scant discipline on the road, it has to be the station wagon drivers. These fellows, driving around in family-friendly cars, are mostly in the business of selling clothes. Or mobile phones. They are responsible for the mushrooming of stalls at virtually every street corner in the country. The spacious car boot comes in handy when transporting their goodies from the house to the shops.

I have been trying to do some research on why a certain cadre of business people would be notorious drivers on the road. I am afraid I have not come up with a substantive reason. But I have a weak theory. One explanation, I got from one of them, is that in the jua kali trade, you must hustle hard — be it when you are negotiating for a consignment, dealing with the merciless City Council officials or rushing to deposit a cheque.

So the hard tactics that are a pre-requisite in their trade naturally get applied to their driving. Anybody out there with a more promising theory?

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