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Driving in Uganda

Driving in Uganda has been described as a “series of near misses”. Unfortunately this trend has now altered and we are seeing more and more accidents/collisions happening. Why is this? Once this question has been answered then therein lies a solution.

Over the last ten years economic growth in Uganda has progressed in leaps and bounds, thanks to political stability. Although this is a good thing it does have its knock-on effects. One of them has been a significant number of new vehicles hitting the road. Last year alone the figure was 2,000 vehicles a month. It is reasonable to assume that there was a similar number of new drivers coming on to the road every month.

Where do these drivers get trained and how effective is that training?

Where do these drivers get tested to obtain a driving permit and how effective is that system?

The level of initial driver training is poor, with incorrect information given to the learner. For instance a student may be told to put the vehicle into neutral and coast down a hill. The reason for this, apparently, is to save fuel! When approaching a roundabout another student asked, “Which lane should I be in?” The instructor answered, “We don’t bother with lanes here in Uganda!” These are just a few examples of many.

The majority of learner vehicles are in poor if not unroadworthy condition. You see some with the wheels wobbling looking as if they are just about to fall off. You see some with clouds of exhaust smoke coming out the back – you think to yourself they must be using more oil than petrol! Some don’t have driving mirrors and some move sideways down the road.

Then to the test itself. You are taken on a short drive and then asked to reverse into an area marked out by four poles. You don’t really have to pass as there is an unofficial fee that you can pay to receive the licence anyway. Most applicants pay this fee, as it seems it doesn’t matter if you have passed, you won’t get the licence until it is paid.

Now, all of the examples above may seem amusing and people who have lived in this region may say, “Well, that’s Africa.” But until the standards are raised for training and testing, the death toll on the road will continue to rise and developing nations like Uganda will continue to spend millions of dollars a year to mop up the mess.

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