I’m sure I’m not the only one that thought that by going to driving school all mysteries about driving will be demystified. I was certain that by the time I was done with driving school I’d be at least acquainted with like 80% of the road experience and the other 20% would be achieved through practical driving. That is what I was made to believe. Well, reality is often disappointing (I know you read that in Thanos’ voice). Driving school doesn’t provide all the answers. In my reflection, I compiled a few things I wish I was told in driving school or before I started driving.
Rules are broken almost everywhere.
In school they always emphasise on how rules should be adhered to even without the presence of a traffic officer. Following rules is something that determines whether you pass or fail your final driving test. So a rookie gets this picture of obedience to road rules. However, on the road it’s a different chorus. Some people drive like they are alone on the road or as if we can read their minds and determine what they are about to do. You’ll find some drivers making turns without indicating and when you rear-end or T-bone their car it ends up being a big case. Some don’t put life saver triangles behind and in front of their broken down car. I usually say watu wengine ndio wenye barabara na sisi ni wa kuomba kuitumia. Be observant on our roads and you’ll see why they say that everyone else is insane and you’re the only sane person.
Lanes are invisible on roundabouts.
No matter how mature you think you are, when you go to driving school you will play around with toys. You lower your ego only to find out later that many drivers don’t really pay attention to the lane they stick to when going around a roundabout. They crisscross their way around as long as they get to the other side. I’m not even going to highlight the carelessness with some nduthi guys. Before you get used to finding your way through a roundabout and its shenanigans, you will be going round a range of emotions.
People on social media think they know how to cut people off. They think they scare us with the cutting off quotes. The real cutting off happens on the road. You might be cruising down the street enjoying the music then someone sees the perfect opportunity to jump right in front of you and speed away. Another one thinks you’re driving like a granny and decides to get past you. Unfortunately, there is a risk of them planting themselves onto the oncoming car so they squeeze their way back and cut you off. Man is to err. The cutting off can lead to accidents and depending on the speed of the cars the accident can be fatal. This calls for extra attention when driving but they won’t tell you this in driving school.
Rude and uncourteous road users.
There’s a saying that states that politeness costs nothing and gains everything. I guess they should include it in the driving school syllabus. Courtesy especially in towns is a word only found in the dictionary. A simple thing like letting one car pass and avoiding a snarl up is hard for some people to do because ‘they will be taken advantage of by every other driver’. Just let that one or two cars take their turn off the road and open the road up for the other users. It takes seconds for that simple action and time will be saved. It’s hard to go by your day in town without hearing a number of drivers shouting, cursing and honking in anger. This is mostly between matatu drivers and private vehicle drivers. For some reason matatu drivers tend to think of private vehicle drivers as ‘slow’ and ‘unreactive’ (I don’t know if that’s an actual word) because they are trying to guard their car from damage. Like the other day I was driving to tend to some errand and on the way there was an accident at a junction which, of course, caused a snarl up. Usually around an accident scene you should drive slowly. Some matatu driver just popped out from behind my car and tried to get past the ‘slow’ me and cut me off, lakini mimi ni nani. He had to do it to someone else.
This is a category on its own. A category of people who ‘own the road’. If you drive or will be driving around towns and urban centres then this group of people will be your biggest headache. They’re always in a rush. It’s understandable that they are in business but that is not an excuse for recklessness. Matatus are always trying to get into every available space ahead of them in a jam and are always overlapping on whichever side of the road. More often their actions just increase the intensity of the jam. When a matatu is behind you and the driver feels that you’re slow, some throw caution to the wind and keep trying to overtake even when it’s not safe to do so. Others keep honking and flashing the headlights which obviously is flaunting the law. They’re also fond of tailgating cars I guess because matatus don’t have elongated bonnets. Driving behind them is a test of how strong your car’s brakes are. They stop suddenly and anywhere. If you’re not careful you might end up rear-ending them. You do not want a case with matatu crews. No, I’m not trying to say that all of them are black sheep. I know matatu drivers who drive very carefully and they don’t let the rush to get money fill up their heads. However, the reckless ones make up the most percentage.
Experience is the best teacher.
You will not come out of driving school being a master of the road. A large percentage of your driving skill is attributed to your driving experience. Seeing the behaviour of other road users and exposure to different situations on the road shape your driving skill; from your judgement, reaction and confidence. From my article on smooth driving (click here to read it), it is evident that smooth driving is a result of practice which also incorporates experience as a side result. So don’t just sit there with your license thinking you’ve become a professional driver. Practice and gain experience. Of course drive safely.
For the sake of readability, I’ll only highlight those. For those intending to go to driving school soon or at some point, do not let this article discourage you. Actually take it as forehand knowledge that will make you more prepared for when you start driving. Attending driving school is important because you are made aware of road rules and laws and basically how to handle yourself on the road for your safety and the safety of other road users. Till the next post, have fruitful days.