Right-hand drives and beer goggles
On Sunday, it was reported that the mystery of ‘beer goggles’ had been solved by researchers at the Roehampton University in the UK. Despite sounding suspiciously like an April fool’s day hoax, this article was serious.
Scientists had spent time studying how drinking makes women prettier and men more handsome in the eyes of the person drinking. It may sound like frivolous research but you have to admit that it is bound to capture the attention of the non-scientific public in a way that a debate on whether neutrinos really do travel faster than light never will.
Our right-lane driving does not hinder trade, it only means that our neighbours drive cautiously for a little while until they get used to driving on the right
As interesting as this story was, it was overtaken by news from Russia where President-elect, Vladimir Putin, approved the development of ‘zombie guns’. Officially known as ‘psychotronic guns’, these are weapons that utilise microwave energy to do all sorts of terrible things to the human body and mind. Can we hope that our scientist will come up with something to capture our imagination and/or attention? Perhaps some grenade blocking force field seeing as, like a herpes sore, the grenade terrorist has popped up yet again last Friday.
Grenade terrorists and zombie guns aside, the research into ‘beer goggles’ got me thinking about recent reports on how the government is still considering the questions on whether to drive on the right or the left [to harmonise with most East African countries] and whether to let right-hand drive cars onto our roads or not.
There is something of a beer goggle quality to the desire to switch to the left lane and let in right-hand drives. It looks good at the time the decision is made but we’re bound to regret it later on.
For one, it is an additional expense that could be spent much better on the people of Rwanda rather than making it convenient for our neighbours to drive on our roads. Are we to pay our teachers a pittance citing scarce resources and then spend billions on an unnecessary switch?
Then of course no one is thinking about the fact that for at least 5 years, most cars will be left hand drives on the left lane. This, in addition to Rwandan’s unfamiliarity with driving on the left, means that the potential for road accidents will be that much higher.
The second traffic related item under consideration is the question of whether to let right-hand drive cars into the country even as we keep driving on the right. The proponents point at affordability of reconditioned vehicles from Japan while opponents [myself included] will point out that cheap cars are not necessarily a good thing.
Think of the traffic jams, the deterioration of air quality and the massive amounts of money that will have to be spent on widening roads to fit in all the new cars. Money that would have been better spent putting in place a cheap, efficient and environmentally friendly public transport system.
So here’s my suggestion. We really do not need to change from the right to left lane to ‘harmonise’ with our neighbours. Our right-lane driving does not hinder trade, it only means that our neighbours drive cautiously for a little while until they get used to driving on the right. There may be an argument for right-hand drive cars and I think we should let them in but our insurers could charge them more on the premiums so that in the end the price of purchasing and owning a right-hand drive will be equal to that of a left hand drive thereby retaining the incentive to buy left hand drives.
Exemptions could be made for public transport vehicles as a way of attracting investment in the public transport sector. Cheap vehicles and harmonising with our neighbours may sound great today but like a guy with beer goggles, we risk waking up to something ugly.
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