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By Time Everything Came To A Standstill There
Were Twelve Vehicles Involved In The Accident

Coastweek -- There are some accidents that leave one aghast at the stupidity of drivers especially when they are travelling in unfamiliar places, writes Teti Kamugunda.

I was Kachumbari watching the proceedings of the presidential petition on TV over a drink with some friends and once the proceedings were over we still had some rounds of paid for drinks to finish off before heading for our abodes.

In the aftermath of the pleadings of the “learned friends” there was need for some light relief and Kachumbari gave us an example of how a series of stupid actions can result in some serious grief.

The incident happened on the Thika Highway a couple of months ago.

There was this lady driving a large SUV on the highway.

There was a light drizzle in patches along the highway following some fairly heavy rain earlier in the day.

Some sections were completely dry and others had surface water.

Most drivers, including this lady, were driving at near the maximum speed allowed on the road and when hitting the wet patches of road would send a mist of water streaming behind.

Vehicles following should have to take whatever action they needed to stay safe but a large number just continued driving at the same speed but turned on the wipers.

The one thing that Kachumbari noticed was that many drivers kept the same distance between them and the car in front irrespective of whether it was dry or wet.

In all cases it was less than the “three second” rule that we were all taught (I presume) when in driving school. For those who may have forgotten or were not taught, a driver following another vehicle is expected to pick a marker on the road ahead.

When the vehicle ahead goes past the marker, one then counts three seconds and if one has passed the marker then you are too close to the car in front.

Under wet conditions one has to then increase this count by at least double to six seconds to take care of the treacherous surface of the road.

The case was that all the drivers observed were driving too close to the cars in front.

At a point where the road was dry and cars were driving at high speeds, a truck on the other side of the central divide and driving in the opposite direction hit a pool of water that had remained in a depression in an otherwise dry section of the road.

The truck was in a crowded section of road and could not change lanes to avoid driving into the pool at speed.

The truck driver chose not to reduce speed, as there were other trucks and vehicles all travelling at about the same speed.

Sudden braking would have caused a pile up.

A sheet of water was created and this splashed across to the other side of the road and straight at the windscreen of the lady in the SUV.

She was present to the fact that there was the central dividing barrier to her right and a lorry she was overtaking to her left.

She braked suddenly as the sheet of water was thrown towards her windscreen.

The car that was behind was too close and could not brake in time and smashed into the back of the SUV forcing it ricochet off the barrier and into the side of the truck it was overtaking.

This then led to other vehicles also hitting each other as they snaked, bumped and jumped into all directions.

By the time everything came to a standstill there were twelve vehicles involved in the accident on one side of the highway and five on the opposite lane caused by one vehicle that was catapulted over the central barrier.

There were several bruised and battered drivers and passengers as a result of being properly belted up and with the blows cushioned by the deployment of air bags in the various vehicles.

Luckily no one was fatally injured.

A few people had broken limbs – courtesy of not having been wearing seat belts and being thrown about like peas in a pod.

This situation could happen to anyone and the lesson that we all learned from this is to keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead.

That would have minimised all the mayhem that happened behind eth lady driving the SUV.

For the unlucky lady, the salutary lesson is that one has to be present to all that is happening around and because the vehicle behind was following too close, she should have simply driven through the sheet of water whilst braking normally rather than treat it as though it was stone thrown at the windscreen.

Our natural instinct is to either duck or brake hard to minimise the impact of the missile coming towards us.

Water is not a missile but our reactions in the split second tends to consider the worst case rather than digest the reality.

We need to condition ourselves as drivers every time we meet an unusual situation on the road and mentally rehearse what we would do to escape from that situation without damage.

As Kachumbari says, preparedness is the best defence.

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