#FRONTROW: I am terrified of driving at night and you should be too
10 months ago, 3 Jan 08:27
I was speaking at the Maasai Mara University in late November and was still engaging the students when the sun began to dim and night approached menacingly. It wasn’t until 6pm that I left the campus in Narok and started on the way back to our nation’s capital. By the time we got to Mai Mahiu, the light had completely given out and I became uneasy as I usually get when I have to be on the road in the dark. I am terrified of driving at night in Kenya because there are far too many factors beyond my control. I would like to stay alive for a long, long time and driving on Kenyan roads after nightfall severely reduces the chances of that happening. So as far as possible, I only do short distances within the city and am always on the lookout for anything out of place while I’m behind the wheel. I am grateful that I can take these precautions and I fully realise that it comes from a certain degree of privilege out of the reach of everyone that I can decide not to use public transport in the dark. For millions of Kenyans for whom that is not an option, they are unknowingly putting themselves in danger every time they board a bus or a matatu and hope they get to their destination in one piece. As this holiday season alone has shown, nearly 100 people never made it to where they were going and countless more were wounded in the process. Suspending night travel like the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) has done is too little too late, akin to shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Just like the menacing deregistration of driving schools, it does not address the fundamental weaknesses in our profit-driven public transport industry. Taking any public transport in Kenya is to knowingly put yourself in danger. The driver might be drunk, or unqualified – often both. They might have worked through the night and the day before without rest, or they might be trying to hit an impossible target, forcing them to keep pushing themselves. The crew of the matatu might be undercover gangsters or working in collusion with them to rob innocent passengers, or any other range of criminal acts that could visit you while you’re there. The vehicle itself might be mechanically faulty or even a write-off that was somehow restored and put back on the road. It might not have a speed governor even though the law still considers it a requirement, or it might be owned by a policeman, which provides cover for all its wrongdoings. If somehow none of these issues faze you or you don’t have a choice and you do jump in anyway, another vehicle driven recklessly might still kill you. NO GUIDELINES There are no minimum standards for crew discipline, vehicle maintenance and roadworthiness or guidelines for public transport in place today and even if there were, they are ...
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