The end of the year is called the festive season not only because of the big days on the Christian calendar but also because like a last cricket batsman would say, people love to finish (the year) in style.
It is considered a big accomplishment to finish the year and embark on a new one, even for those who are not as accomplished, because marking time is something human beings have perfected. I am sure we are the only animal species that celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, relationship anniversaries and any other excuse we have to marking a day as special.
The mood is always a relaxed one around this time. Those doing formal jobs can expect a breather as the work eases up allowing them to even break off for days until the New Year is well under way. Some are even lucky enough to get a pay bonus to further make this season a smooth one. In some organisations it is equivalent to a full month’s salary hence the name 13thsalary. I am yet to be that lucky in this life.
Armed with the right mood and financial lubricants many them embark on the annual mass exodus that doubles as the main tourism activity many will do in a year – the trip from the city to the rural areas to celebrate the festive season in style. Private cars filled to capacity join the perennial buses and trucks to make this journey creating traffic snarl ups here and there. The same cars will make the return journey once all the feasting is done and work is beckoning.
In many places the air will be filled with those Boney M Christmas themed songs and if you are in Kampala, the late Philly Bongoley Lutaaya will always take the day. Night clubs and bars will play all other music genres as long as the patrons are on the dance floor or simply nodding their heads like geckos. Breweries will have to deal with logistical challenges of ensuring that their products are in every corner of the country so that the joyous spirit is not interrupted.
However in some cases this happy mood does get interrupted in the harshest ways possible. That phone call from a stranger or relative to deliver terrible news and to hang up before your heart can get around the weight of the message. It is around this time that road accidents increase in occurrence and the fatalities are devastating as in many cases the victims are even members of the same family.
Last week there was a fatal accident in Kenya when a truck lost control and smashed into 12 other vehicles leaving so many people lifeless, limbless or traumatised for life from the whole situation. The accident involved one of the buses belonging to the Kenyan based Modern Coast bus company and because I travel a lot around the region, I was bombarded by the greasily pictures by people who were both asking if I was ok or whether I knew what happened. Indeed may the departed souls rest in peace.
I once interviewed a bus driver who has been on the Kampala Kigali route for more than 15 years and I learnt a few things as to why the festive season is also the time when we see a lot of accidents on our roads. In his wisdom, the biggest problem is that many people who get their driving licenses through short cuts buy cars and drive within the city the whole time.
When the festive season comes they dive into new waters by driving long distances on roads they are not familiar with. This unfamiliarity is then combined with overtaking in sharp bends and speeding. And yet all they had to do was drive slowly and with caution. In some places the season is also the one where cops expect to maximise on collecting bribes instead of keeping our roads safe.
Even for those not heading upcountry, if you have taken one too many at your local bar please do not drive. Do not endanger your life and that of others simply because you can afford an alcoholic beverage and a car. With regional integration, any bus crossing a border within East Africa is likely to have people of not less than four nationalities. Therefore a fatal accident will broadcast sorrow across the whole region. Let us all exercise caution so we can see another festive season. Let us be more responsible.
The views expressed in this article are of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.