Several have caught
the headlines especially those that have resulted in multiple
Most of these
attention catching accidents have happened in areas that are
known as accident black spots and have been identified as for
very many years.
A few of these
accident black spots have been in the news but there are several
others that continue to have fatal accidents that do not hit the
news because they result in fewer fatalities or simply in damage
of vehicles – and the latter does not make the grade for
The authorities that
are taxed with matters to do with driving infrastructure, driver
training and ensuring driver compliance have come out with a
joint statement which primarily lays the blame on the driver -
and quite rightly so.
Driving is primarily
a science that one needs to learn well.
This encompasses the
mecha-nics of handling a car as well as the rules of using the
These are taught in
driving schools and the quality of this part is very dependent
on having the right the curriculum and well as an examination
process that is reliable and incorruptible.
The other part of
driving - and to me the most important – is the art of driving.
In this, the
driver’s interpre-tation of the driving rules when circumstances
are slightly different from what has been taught in the
textbooks and road practice, is what is important.
The things that can
modify how a driver behaves include the way other drivers behave
on the road, the condition of the road, the prevailing traffic
conditions, the weather as well as the way passengers in the
vehicle are behaving.
The other important
behaviour modifier is the state of health of the driver.
All these are not
taught in a driving school and cannot be examined.
They require the
driver to understand and interpret their own role in making
driving a safe activity.
The first signs that
things are not well with a driver is when they start breaking
the rules that they have been taught or are not able to manage
the vehicle in the way they were instructed to.
So, what needs to be
done to ensure that the science of driving is correctly taught
We have been saying
for the last decade or more that there is need to completely
overhaul the curriculum that is used to teach driving as well as
the examination methods.
The driving schools
in Kenya, including the premium ones, are all set up as
businesses with the key objective of returning profits – and
The instructors and
instruc-tions materials leave a lot to be desired.
A few months ago, I
decided to go for driving instruction just to see what was
available and went to two of the schools.
One is the largest
school and the other is the national reference school.
I went through the
training curriculum in both for five lessons (the minimum I was
told) and found that the aids they use and teaching method has
not changed since I first learned how to drive several decades
The technology of
vehicles has changed and the driving conditions have changed.
imperatives around driving have also changed.
None of the driving
schools had a driving simulator.
All still used
verbal instruction and the dreaded “board”.
In this day and age
this is almost criminal.
A quick search on
the internet showed up very cost effective simulators that can
be hooked up even in a home.
They did not require
any expensive items – a few monitors to create the surround
effect, the purchase of a steering wheel and controls that could
very easily be clamped on a table top and foot operations that
can be properly spaced and mounted on a simple frame on the
This is the first
and most basic change that as to happen very quickly so that we
do not turn out new killers on the road.
A new curriculum,
more modern teaching methods and tools as well as a
comprehensive and robust examination process – that is difficult
As far as the art of
driving is concerned, we have also advocated that those who pass
their test should drive with a learner label on their vehicles
for at least year and then go for a full driving cycle test.
I underwent one of
these in the name of defensive driving training and examination.
This required one to
know how to drive in crowded urban roads, badly maintained urban
roads as well as the sane in the countryside.
It also involved
driving during a time when the light was changing – that is
between the hours of six and seven (either morning or evening).
In my case, it
rained so the examiner was able to also interrogate my driving
in inclement weather.
The examiner was
also able to simulate emergency situations going downhill, round
blind corners as well as failure of different vehicle
These are the key
causes of accident in the so called accident black spots in our
country and there is a need to have a contin-uous bi annual
assessment of driving – especially for those who are in charge
of buses and mini vans used for public passenger carriage as
well as drivers who are responsible for commercial vehicles used
to transport goods.
Other drivers like
you and me should also be subjected to re-examination at both
science and art level every five years or so.
This may seem
draconian but it is what we need to change the equation that we
However, for those
of us driving over the holiday period, let us do a few basic
things. First, make sure that the vehicles we drive are
Drive during day
times only when driving for long distances.
Do not be in a hurry
and let other fools do their foolish things like overtaking when
there is oncoming traffic, overloading their vehicles,
tailgating and so forth.
Slow down when it
rains and also when in heavy traffic.
Allow plenty of time
for the journey. Have a Merry Christmas.
As Kachumbari says,
draco-nian actions are required when we have the kind of crisis
that we have allowed to develop on our roads.