This is a column I don’t know how to start. Sometimes I wish I could take all of Kigali, any single soul who has ever sat behind a steering wheel, and a hold a massive all-out driving tutorial.
Big screens would hang along the sides of Amahoro Stadium and no one would be allowed to leave until the video was finished. “This is how you drive,” it would say.
The irony is I myself do not know how to drive. Don’t have a driving license, literally have driven around two blocks twice, and a stretch of empty desolate desert highway in Namibia, when I was young and full of sun in my hair.
Nevertheless, in Kigali it does not take a driver to spot bad driving. You could do it as an opposing passenger, a pedestrian, or even simply a person. It is that contagious, it is ubiquitous, and it is that virulent.
Specific problems to note; many roads lack properly designated lanes; drivers seems to alternate between sheer recklessness or impossibly futile slowness, eking along streets during night or day, cruising lazily along the strips at no more than 15 miles per hour, as if they drive the only car in the world.
No one is driving the only car in the world, and rather to the contrary, traffic is growing quickly in Kigali. Although we don’t have the same congestion as Nairobi or Kampala, we very well could if growth continues at the rate it does today.
The worst thing about it is that, since the city rests entirely on waving hills, there is few single times when a car is not belching out more noxious fumes than it needs be, as it chugs along slowly up the ramparts. And then of course traffic lights in the middle of hills don’t help either.
There are bad drivers everywhere. If I knew how to drive, I’d have to bet my bottom dollar, I would be a pretty bad driver myself. As it is, I’m not so good of a pedestrian, and I know the anger I feel towards other drivers, I would feel towards pedestrians if I was myself a driver.
But it’s more than just annoying. It’s dangerous, very dangerous. People care not whether they walk into the middle of the street, during either day or night, and they don’t look where they are going when they do so.
What happens when this person gets hit by a car? What happens when one is killed this way? Who is to be blame?
Or what happens when I am driving in a car with a friend and all of a sudden another car coming from the opposite direction tried to overtake another by driving into our lane, and we almost collide? Should I lose my life manner?
Why don’t pay attention when they must; people think its okay to drive as slow as possible and hold up an entire lane of traffic because they are too lazy to hit the gas.
People drive in the middle of two lanes; they keep their headlights blaring at the brightest possible, even when other cars are approaching.
Almost every time I have been in a car at night this has happened, and our vision is drowned out by the floodlights on the approaching car, and we can’t see where we are going, and the chances of collision escalate.
How in the name of Imana can drivers think it is safe to keep your brights on when another car is approaching?
It’s not like people don’t know how to drive. There are driving schools everywhere, from the stadium in Remera to the mosques of Nyamirambo, many people are learning how to drive, but who is teaching them?
Maybe it’s the same people who drive the matatus, because in Kigali, regular cars are not the only problem. In fact, a great deal of good would be done if there was some possible separation between private, public, and commercial traffic.
Its not a good thing to be driving behind a full, slow minibus, which itself is driving behind a lumbering oil tanker, and the matatu expertly swivels and pivots impossibly around cars, pedestrians, and even the tanker, to pick up more passengers.
They cut in and out of traffic as though nothing could ever harm them, but more than once I have seen them run directly into oncoming traffic.
I could go on, I could go on and on until the day I get hit head-on by some one who writes a text message instead of looking at the road as he drives. It has worried me time and time again.
Stricter regulations are needed on driving permits, regular and uniform driving instructions, rules and signals must be enforced. I really mean it, fill up Amahoro stadium, lock the gates, hold guns to heads if necessary to keep our eyes focused on the screen, “this is how you drive,” it will say.