Coastweek -- Last
week I spent the whole article explaining how I had set up a
defensive driving operation in a company I worked in many years
writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.
However, the original discussion
was supposed to be about Kachumbari’s assertion that he had seen
an attempt by matatu drivers and owners to inculcate some form
of defensive driving culture in their ecosystem.
The take that I got from Kachumbari was that in their view
offence was defence.
objective of any matatu driver or owner is to get a passenger to
their destination as quickly as possible without killing them or
writing off the asset.
So, it is pure focus on the customer’s wish.
So far so good.
this, the matatu driver has to be able to move quickly through
traffic irrespective of what is going on around them.
It is this drive that pushes matatu drivers to behave the way
that moves them forward has to be occupied even if it is another
They will force their way into any open position irrespective of
Courteous drivers like most of us always leave a small space
between us and the vehicle in front.
This is not acceptable in matatu defensive driving.
They will push to occupy that space and immediately another
space opens up they will abandon the space in front of you and
head to the next one that moves them further ahead.
offensive style is to cut across to the fastest lane or to the
one that is most likely to move.
The matatu driver is very good at spotting which lane is moving.
They spend their whole time doing that.
The conductor is also a specialist in this.
no formal communication between the diver and his conductor in
the way we would traditionally do it by voice, but, according to
Kachumbari, they have their own way of doing it.
It is reminiscent of the jungle drum mode of communication.
By banging in a specific way on the body of the matatu, the
sound generated has a meaning to the driver.
Part of it is to tell the driver when to stop to let a passenger
off or when the conductor sees a potential fare and requires the
driver to respond by stopping at the appropriate place.
It is uncanny how the driver, without knowing exactly where the
passenger is, will somehow always find themselves right where
the passenger is through the guidance of the banging of the
part of the banging is to inform the driver when to cut across
traffic to another lane that the conductor has spotted that is
moving faster than the lane they are in.
Sometimes on sees a matatu start to cut across and then suddenly
return to the lane that it had been in.
There is also communication between the driver and conductor to
make this happen.
that matatus are most active in this offensive type of driving
is when approaching a roundabout on a multiple lane road.
The inner most lane (the closest to the centre of the road) is
normally the fastest moving as one approaches a roundabout.
As one gets closer, the matatus make an acute cut across the
lanes so that by the time they get to the roundabout, they are
on the outermost lane which normally tends to move quicker
because the vehicles in that lane can turn in two directions and
generally means that this is the fastest moving lane when there
is traffic congestion.
The cops controlling traffic at the roundabouts generally tend
to allow vehicles turning left to filter left when there is
traffic on the roundabout.
drivers know this so they target those lanes as they get to the
However. Instead the matatus normally get into this lane not to
turn left but so that they can surge forward to either go
straight across or even turn to the right – by cutting across
traffic on the roundabout!!
matatu drivers way of operation fulfils their business objective
of getting the passenger to the destination as quickly as
The “without killing them” or “writing off the asset” bit is
achieved purely by impunity.
The matatu drivers know that an average driver will not
challenge a matatu that has little or no insurance as the
process of getting redress in accident will be tedious and might
not yield any return.
Most drivers treat matatus with caution – and the matatu drivers
This creates masses of room for them to be as offensive as they
It also means that they are unlikely to have accidents that are
on the cake in the matter of defensive driving is that matatu
owners are not happy with the number of small knocks that their
vehicles get in their day to day business so the emerging trend
is for matatu owners to add scuffing panels to the corners of
the matatu and also along the sides at around bonnet height of
the average saloon car.
These panels are bolted on top of the normal matatu body and
they are meant to absorb small prangs and scratches at around
the common height of contact with other vehicles.
panels are the ones that are removed and replaced after may of
these types of encounters instead of having to do patches of
This is an ingenious way of accepting that these kinds of things
will happen and working to minimise the cost of rehabilitation.
It is in a way of defence against major damage
Kachumbari says, perhaps this should be called defensive driving
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