About 1.2 million people around the world are killed in traffic accidents every year, according to the World Health Organization. Kenya has some of the world’s worst road fatality statistics, with more than 3,000 people killed annually. As a result, more and more Kenyans are recognizing the benefits of going to a good driving school.
Like so many other teenagers around the world, 19-year-old Martin Otieno Jr. can’t wait to get his driver’s license. He shows all the characteristics of a first-time driver - hands gripping the steering wheel, hawk-like observation of the road, and nervous questions for his instructor.
“Driving in Nairobi is wild. But if you can drive in Nairobi, you can drive anywhere,” said Otieno.
Obstacles abound in Nairobi
Unlike his counterparts elsewhere, Otieno has to contend with unruly minibuses called “matatus,” in addition to pedestrians and animals darting in and out of traffic. There also are huge pot holes, unmarked speed bumps and overloaded buses and trucks going at high speeds.
And according to David Njoroge, the Director General of the Automobile Association of Kenya, accountability is lacking.
“Perhaps you’d also blame the enforcement, because there is a law. And where the law is properly observed, and the penalties are adequately given out, dished out, then people would have a second thought to go on breaking the laws,” said Njoroge.
In Kenya, it is not uncommon to hear of people buying driver’s licenses instead of investing in driving school. However, Njoroge said people are slowly seeing the value of going back to school.
“They come to recognize the fact that here, it is my life, although I have a license. So, it’s better for me to go back to proper driving instruction,” said Njoroge.
Otieno paid roughly $175 for a full driving course - a steep sum for a teenager.
“I’d rather get, you know, quality education, rather than just go to some cheap school in the neighborhood. It probably won’t have the right material, so cheap is expensive,” he said.
But while he’s concerned about his safety on the roads, there is another reason Otieno is excited to get his driver’s license.
“The first thing I want to do is take my dad’s car out. He’s always told me, don’t touch that car without your driving license, so that’s the first thing I’m going to do,” Otieno said.
It is the dream of teenagers everywhere.