If you are caught driving above 80 km/hr on the highways of Rwanda, you will be charged with reckless driving. It is clearly stated, it is not merely a traffic infraction but a criminal offense. Jurisdictions vary widely in the penalties they impose on reckless driving/speeding.
At a certain speed, police/courts can suspend the driver’s operator’s license. Drivers are thus fined highly for different traffic offenses. At extreme higher speed; police/courts begin imposing jail sentences in addition to the operator’s license suspension.
However, some drivers (especially taxi drivers) have devised different ways of beating police traps. One of the most out standing tricks used is “the finger sign”. You will see a taxi driver communicating to a fellow driver using fingers in an interchangeable manner that leaves you astonished.
The fingers are used to warn the driver from the opposite direction that traffic police is ahead.
Drivers communicate and tell each other the whereabouts of the ambush and thus render the efforts of the traffic police futile. Scientific experience has shown that the non-verbal communication often expresses true feelings more accurately than the spoken or written language. This explains why some drivers have continued to commit traffic offenses unabated.
Body language can provide important information that may not be contained in the verbal version of communication.
This therefore makes driving on the road one of the most dangerous experiences. Nonetheless, these drivers admire their ways of communication and think they will forever get away with it. Ask any driver why they communicate with such ill intentions and they will defend themselves as Habimana Faustin does;
“Communication is essential for the safety of our driving experience and for the prevention of accidents. Social interaction is constantly occurring between drivers on the road.
“This constant interaction can be between drivers and pedestrians, driver to driver, or driver to passenger. Communication is necessary because it allows us to know the situation at hand.”
Under this ‘finger sign’, drivers continue to abuse road traffic rules and even cause fatal accidents. Pedestrians have thus been maimed and killed on many occasions. Children make up a large percentage of those killed as pedestrians. They are often knocked down by zooming vehicles as they try to move from one point to another without knowing how to use or cross highways.
All these notwithstanding, a number of other factors cause road accidents; over speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol and drug abuse, driver negligence, overloaded vehicles, poor vehicle maintenance, worn out tires, bad roads, pedestrian carelessness and driver fatigue are among what traffic police should be aware most keen on.
Oftentimes, passengers or/and pedestrians are not aware of driver’s imcompetence on roads.
While Rwanda has established road safety precautions to deal with traffic issues, it is evident that there is a lot to be desired. Use of traffic facilities like radars is necessary. It is only the use of raders that would beat the sturbbon drivers’ finger sign.What disturbs most is that in spite of countless warnings and sensitisation campaigns, dangerous driving continues and great human suffering is caused by reckless drivers.
Isn’t it about time that cars were fitted with sealed data recorders? In case of an accident, the police would be able to unseal the recorder and check the speed and direction of suspected offenders’ cars.
Such a device should not cost much if procured in bulk and can be installed in all new vehicles and in vehicles that have been on the road.
If reckless drivers knew they were being watched all the time, they would no doubt think twice before misbehaving.
Road transport is the dominant form of transport in Sub-Saharan Africa, Rwanda inclusive. It carries 80 to 90 percent of the region’s passengers and freight transport and provides the only form of access to most rural destinations.
However, we cannot over emphasise the importance of checking its effect on the lives of people. A person who drives a vehicle heedlessly, in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property, should be guilty of reckless driving and be punished.
This will only be practical if monitoring with relevant apparatuses is done by traffic police. This of course goes with resources that we shall inevitably need to mobilise.