Ignored a traffic light today? You are on the road to criminality

Driving home from Nyarutarama, I stopped at the street lights at Gishushu as they turned red. While almost every car did the same, a moto-taxi with a passenger idling next to me suddenly accelerated, crossing the road. While I have become somewhat immune to the antics of our Kigali taxi motos (otherwise known as the ‘two-wheel flying coffins’), what shocked me was the fact that the moto did this without fearing the consequences. Not consequences like possible death or anything like that, but rather the presence of neon-jacketed traffic policemen standing right across the street. You would think that the fellow would have been scared of being arrested and being fined within an inch of his life but no. And honestly, he isnt the only one pretending to be colour blind.

The Kimihurura junction is probably the worst one to drive through if you are law abiding citizen. I don’t know whether it’s because the junction is next to certain ministries and offices that are full of ‘important’ people doing ‘important’ things, but if you don’t keep your full wits about you, you might get blindsided by a swanky Prado, driven by an impatient driver. I’ve heard many people say that Rwandans are horrible drivers, a sentiment that I’m not really able to argue against, but we aren’t talking about complicated rules and road manoeuvres. This is simply a matter of knowing that when a light turns red, you cannot keep driving because someone else has right of way.  Kigali City Council even made it easy for the simplest simpleton by installing lights that have a countdown. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to work.

So, we have some shameless people driving around and that isnt a surprise. What bothers me is just how uninterested our traffic police seem. What is the use of standing on intersections in crisply iron uniforms if they can’t even deter errant drivers?  How hard is it to flag down the car and, at least warn the driver? Honestly, the only time I’ve seen people respect the neon jacketed policemen and women is on weekend nights when they put spikes across the street and arrest drunk drivers.

I think that it is time that traffic cops stopped just standing around and started doing their jobs, keeping us safe from the crazies on our streets. But that doesn’t take away from our own responsibilities as road users.

Which brings me to the point of this rant. I’ve come to the realisation that a lot of us live on the wrong side of the moral line. And it isnt simply about driving whenever we choose, regardless of the stoplight’s colour. This is about doing what is right, regardless to whether someone is watching us, simply because we should.

How many times have you seen a government official promise to do something only after the President has waded in? Must His Excellency get involved before something gets done? I should think not. And I wonder, if the President didn’t censure corruption so harshly would Transparency International cite us so positively? Right is right and wrong is wrong and it all starts with the small things. I can bet that the fellow ignoring the red light will also be the same person caught with their hand in the till. Forget just how dangerous it is, but what example are you setting to the children in the back seat of your car? Are you teaching them that, as long as no one can stop or see you, doing something wrong is okay?

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