opinionBy Nevanji Madanhire
Zimbabweans are the world's worst drivers, okay! I know you don't agree but let's talk about this on January 2.
I know on that day you will be lying flat on your back in some hospital bed with all your limps bound in the plaster of Paris and your head, all in bandages, round like a football, your eyes peeping tentatively at me through slits.
As is always the case in holiday accidents, it's only the loved ones who die while the culprit remains, most of the time with minor injuries or fractured limbs but otherwise very alive!
Last year someone said, "I was overtaking a gonyet [haulage truck] and then the road turned!" It was the road that turned, eh? Now he lives with the burden of the guilt of having literally murdered all his loved ones.
In Zimbabwe, bad driving begins right from the beginning; one buys a secondhand vehicle and then goes to buy a driver's licence from corrupt licensing officials.
Zimbabweans hate failing the driving test so will fork out any amount to avoid it.
But the truth of the matter is, they hurry for driving tests before they have had the hang of it. If you fail once, that's fine. Twice, that's still fine.
Thrice, that again is still fine so long you are going back to your instructor to go over it again, all of it.
Word of caution, there should never be a shortcut to obtaining a driver's licence. Know the Highway Code backwards. If you have learnt your lessons well, there is no way anyone can ask for bribe; the guys at the VID only ask for your money when they are sure you are in a hurry to obtain a licence and you have money you don't know what to do with. Never pay for a licence.
Don't drive under the influence, stupid. This has been said before. Don't give us the crap about being a better driver when you have had a few. Truth is: it isn't true; alcohol will slow your reaction time in tricky situations.
Not only that, when you drive with a bottle between your thighs, you're multi-tasking.
Your legs are meant only to help you walk, remember when we were created god didn't have cars in mind. By using them to drive, you have assigned them a totally new task which they may master over a long period of practice.
But, for them to do that and work as a vice to hold your beer too? That's a completely new extra task you are assigning to them. Just when they are getting used to clutching in, applying the brakes and accelerating, you are asking them to hold your beer. It's simply not fair to them and the children you are carrying!
Talking of multi-tasking; speaking on your phone while driving is another example of impractical multi-tasking. Some even go to the extent of composing text messages and sending them while driving! Women are the worst culprits in this, I don't care if you accuse me of sexism.
Truth is women talk on the phone all the time while driving. Men do too, but they are briefer and to the point. Men's greatest fault when driving, particularly in the cities, is girl-watching, or is it leg gazing? They will gaze at women in certain types of outfits, especially miniskirts and let their imaginations drift with them! Just look at their car bumpers to see what I mean.
The worst Zimbabwean drivers are those who live outside the country, particularly in South Africa.
That's very interesting because the South African Highway Code is tighter on rules than ours and when these drivers are down there, they drive very well. Not when they come over during the festive season with their Gangster Paradise (GP) registered vehicles. They become monsters on the roads, as if trying to imply that every local driver is a dunce.
They screech their wheels and blow their horns as if every car is in their way.
They see only the car immediately in front of them; so in a traffic jam they are always swearing at the poor driver in front as if he could lift his vehicle and let them pass. But see them in January as they trek back down South, crestfallen and broke, their cars almost falling apart, the result of the persistent acts of road rage they engaged in.
Please care for the pedestrians and the cyclists? The fact that you are travelling in a chunk of metal automatically puts these poor individuals in a vulnerable position. Please consider them when driving by approaching pedestrian crossings and cycling tracks soberly.
Avoid threatening them with bursts of speed and the sound of your horn.
There is no reason to be vindictive; the pedestrians and cyclists know the full power of your vehicle. They also have the same rights on the roads as you do; courteous drivers know where and when pedestrians have the right of way.
Don't speed, please. Have you noticed the motorist you overtake who is driving consistently at say 70km/h will arrive at the same destination as you almost at the same time? Have you wondered why?
Your bursts of speed are not sustainable; you can only travel at such speeds for only small distances, usually only 5km and then you are slowed down or stopped altogether either by other traffic, farm animals or other obstacles on the roads. Our roads are not superhighways; they are notoriously slow! But if you abide by their dictates, you will avoid the frustrations that come with driving on them.
Overtake only when you absolutely can't avoid it and do it carefully because there just might be an unseen obstacle in the way or the road might have a bend. Traffic signals are not always visible, if they exist at all. Road markings too, drivers should ensure they look out for them.
And, do you know your vehicle?
Below are the basics you must know about your car before you take to the road [courtesy of Automotive India]:
Space your car needs on the road;
How steering response changes with speed;
How much of your car is ahead and behind you;
In gear-response of your car (In the city you need just the 1st and 2nd but for highway you need to know of the 3rd, 4th and 5th too);
How your car behaves under normal braking;
How your car behaves under hard braking and it's braking distance; and
The ground clearance of the car.
In the New Year, don't live with guilt of having killed your family. Enjoy.
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