9 Common Mistakes New Drivers Make on Kenya Highways, How to Avoid Them

Traffic police officers stop motorist at a checkpoint. On Wednesday, May 13, 2020, NTSA issued a warning to motorists.
Traffic police officers stop motorists at a checkpoint along Nairobi - Nakuru Highway in May 2020.

Driving on Kenyan roads is a risky affair. From reckless drivers to sometimes flawed road designs, it's not a walk in the park.

What is known as 'our driving culture' makes most highways in the country user unfriendly with the number of vehicles sharply rising, as more people find it affordable to own a car.

Amid all these challenges, and the risk of either being involved in an accident or losing your life, how do new drivers cope? How is it like driving on the ever-busy Mombasa Road or Nairobi-Nakuru Highway, without any experience?

According to the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) most traffic offenses are committed by new drivers and they are as a result of simple and avoidable mistakes.

NTSA officials accompanied by police inspect a matatu in Nairobi in December 2019
NTSA officials accompanied by police inspect a matatu in Nairobi in December 2019
K24 Digital

Kenyans.co.ke has compiled some of simple mistakes committed by first-time drivers and how to avoid them.

Not Using indicators

Most first-time drivers have fallen victim to the mistake of not using their car indicators. Indicators serve as the mode of communication between drivers on the road. 

A car has several signaling lights- indicators, brake light, hazard warning light, headlights, and reversing light. These lights send different signals to other road users. The sender and the intended recipient of the signal must therefore read from the same script.

New road users are advised to master signals, including when to use them and not to signal too soon to avoid confusion.

Failure to indicate or carry lifesaving signs attracts a fine of up to Ksh2,000.

Keeping Distance

Keeping distance is one of the key precautions that drivers need to consider while driving on Kenyan roads. Motorists should keep a distance of about 1.8 meters (6 feet).

This is a safety distance aimed at allowing other motorists to react in case of an emergency as enshrined in Kenya Traffic Laws.

"Maintain a reasonable distance between your car and the car in front of you. Don't forget to also practice social distancing by keeping a distance of about six feet from others if you must go out in public," the Automobile Association of Kenya states on their website.

Overcompensating for Mistakes

Traffic offenses are charged differently in the country. Some offenses are charged instantly by traffic law enforcers while others follow the legal procedure.

New drivers in most cases end up paying more than the set limits for simple mistakes. For instance, failure to produce a valid driving license attracts an instant fine of not less than Ksh1,000 while driving a vehicle without a valid inspection certificate inspected will cost you a fine of up to Ksh10,000.

Most drivers who are not familiar with the fines end up being exploited, sometimes by the traffic police.

Driving Under Influence

This is among the leading causes of road accidents in the country. A number of drivers, both new first-time and veteran get behind the steering while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.

Drunk-driving is an offense punishable under Kenyan laws.

Driving the Wrong Car

For one to hire a car or drive a car that is not his, you need a valid driver's license, passport with a valid Visa  or a valid Kenyan National Identity Card.

But after completing a driving course, one is given a driving license depending on the car and training taken. There are two categories of driving licenses in Kenya which are further subdivided into other smaller subgroups. The licenses are given depending on the categories. 

Driving a car that is not classified in ones driving license is considered a traffic offense. To avoid confusion, NTSA properly lists the types of cars one is allowed to drive with the obtained license.

Letting Emotions Get Control Over You

Most instructors advise new drivers assume that they are the only sane people on the road. Having emotions on the road can easily contribute to a driver committing avoidable traffic offenses.

New drivers are advised to avoid confrontations while on the steering wheel and seek help from traffic officers whenever disputes arise.

Driving at Wrong Speed

Drivers are expected to faithfully abide by the speed limits set on different roads across the country. For instance, the speed limit of the Nairobi Expressway has been capped at 80KM/Hr.

Speeding attracts heavy fines according to the traffic laws of the land. 

Motorists should therefore follow the stipulated speed limits at all times.

Failing to Display L Plate

Learners and new drivers are expected at all times to display the 'L' sign on the rear and front windows.

This is to inform other motorists to approach with caution. A number of accidents in the country have been caused by negligence by some new drivers to display the sign.

According to traffic laws, failure to display the learners' plates attracts a fine of up to Ksh1,000.

Not leaving enough Space While switching lanes

New drivers fall victim to not keeping enough distance while switching lanes. This leads to minor accidents that are encountered on our roads. 

Drivers end up exhausting their insurance and even making extra costs to repair car damages. In extreme cases, they end up being booked for various traffic offenses risking losing their licenses.

It is advisable to keep at least one meter when switching lanes.

Other common mistakes committed by new drivers include panicking at lights and stalling the car, reading the road too far ahead, and not checking blind spots among others.

File photo of electric cars parked
File photo of electric cars parked
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