With the way Malawi is depicted on the international scene, one would think this is the last place to find traffic jams. We are, after all, depicted as a jungle full of illiterate and malnourished people who have not experienced civilisation. I am sure it is such a shocker to get into the two major cities and find them thronging with traffic wondering where the jungle and wild animals have disappeared to (ha ha ha).
Jokes aside, traffic in the country has become a menace. We underestimated how fast people will accumulate cars, especially in the capital city. Lilongwe is a vast and big city but this has not eased the congestion of both cars and humans that operate them. Getting things done can be a headache. It can take a whole afternoon to get errands that will ideally take two hours done because the hustle is just too much.
However, things could have been better than they currently are and can be better. There is need for some specific and intensive regulation enforcement. I am told in other countries, all road users are subject to regulations and fines once they break the laws of the road.
Of course, here too we do have regulations for other road users apart from those driving cars. For instance, it seems pedestrians assume that a zebra crossing means they can just jump onto the road any time and anyhow and a car ought to halt immediately when in essence a car is mandated to stop when a pedestrian has already stepped onto a crossing or have indicated intent to cross just as cars are obligated to slow down when approaching a crossing.
Someone summed it up nicely
“Let’s begin with rules for pedestrians crossing the street, first in crosswalks and then at other locations. At crosswalks, pedestrians really only have one rule: Don’t run out in front of a car, making it impossible for the driver to stop in time.
Again, it seems obvious. However, have you ever seen a pedestrian step into a crosswalk, right in front of a car, because sending a text message was higher priority than checking for traffic? Cars are required to yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks but that doesn’t relieve the pedestrian of the requirement to pay attention and have reasonable expectations about how much distance it takes a car to stop.”
In short, a zebra crossing is not a carefree zone
As much the number of cars in the country has increased tremendously, it is still evident that there is more at play when it comes to traffic jams than just the number of cars. Traffic jams are mostly a result of unnecessary bottlenecks caused by selfish people both on the ground and behind cars. Selfish driving is evident in the number of drivers that fail to yield to other drivers, that block junctions unnecessarily, that stop, turn and park carelessly and that zigzag on the roads.
And, of course, commonly, minibus drivers are culprits of spontaneous and careless law breaking on the road. They stop anywhere, anytime, anyhow. They block the roads without caring about other cars in front of or behind them. But, more often than not, we also see other road users engaging in such tendencies. At times, it’s the kabaza person who carelessly overtakes his fellow kabaza driver without checking the traffic behind him, if not, he has an abnormal load protruding into the main road. Sigh.
Some accidents are greatly avoidable; people just need to be more responsible and by people it includes all road users. It’s about time the country revolutionised the roads and held everyone responsible. Fines should apply to all road users. Our traffic police should note what all road users are doing not only vehicles. Bicycle owners, pedestrians, minibus drivers and all vehicle owners should follow regulations on the road.
Traffic police should regularly check if driver’s licences are actually authentic; a lot of people seem to have zigzagged their way into driving and this has a dangerous effect on the road. They are a hazard to themselves and to other drivers.
I rest my case
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