Is it so hard for drivers to share roads with other road users?

Kenya Road Sign - Roadworks in Progress AheadA driver overtakes another car at speed alongside a narrow
section of urban road where a new pavement is being constructed, leaving pedestrians (who have been pushed out unprotected onto the street for the duration of the construction — in itself an issue) and construction workers in a cloud of dust. The approach to the section is announced with a road sign indicating “Roadworks Ahead.” To make it worse, that section is right ahead of a bend in the road (which itself is announced by a road sign). How many things are wrong in this all too common scenario on our streets across the country? What could be going on in the mind of such a driver?

Kenya Road Sign - Sharp bend to the leftDrivers of cars and light vehicles account for only 10% of the approximately 3,000 road traffic fatalities experienced in Kenya per year. The rest consist of passengers in cars and light vehicles and pedestrians. And contrary to conventional wisdom, deaths from accidents involving buses account for only 4% of the annual fatalities. So it is not an overreach to remind individual drivers of the huge responsibility that accompanies taking control of vehicles on public roadways. Indeed, Kenya Police data from 1990 shows that 85.5% of the 13,400 (rising to 14,208 in 2012) road traffic accidents resulted from poor human behavior.

Developing good driving habits is very important. This 10 minute video does a great job of reviewing how to be prepared and to take defensive action while navigating busy city streets. Although it is from a UK driving school, the principles are broadly applicable here on our crowded Kenyan roads and, thankfully, the UK is another drive-on-the-left country.

Good habits start by acquiring both the theoretical and practical knowledge involved in sharing our public roadways from the multitude of other road users. Pedestrians, animals and other drivers complicate the driving experience as they may take unpredictable actions. It is dangerous to assume that the car ahead will continue at the same speed or direction, or that the vulnerable child or elderly pedestrian on the pavement will not unexpectedly cross the road without looking in your direction. Being prepared to take safe action is the hallmark of good driving. Once you have viewed the video above, reinforce your knowledge of Kenyan road signs by taking our free online driving quiz available here.

Driving schools play an important role in preparing driving learners for the mandatory driving tests. Obviously the quality of instruction varies greatly. However, like in other areas of training, the Internet provides access to a trove of resources that can help learners not only prepare for the driving test, but to actually become better drivers regardless of the quality of driving school instruction and indeed the driving test itself. Given the critical responsibility we assume when we drive, we need to ensure that we are going the extra mile in terms of preparedness, behavior and focus on the job every time we venture out.