In the course of my work, I have boarded many, many a bus at Nyabugogo to travel the length and breadth of Rwanda. I have put up, more or less uncomplainingly, with having my buttocks bruised by the hard seats, being vomited over on a couple of occasions and being squashed up with less personal space than a sardine in a can. What I do, however object to, is having my life put in jeopardy by a driver who cannot leave his phone in his pocket for the duration of the journey. As the passenger sitting next to me remarked on the way back from Matimba last week, ‘that driver is joking with our lives’. Now I believe I have as good a sense of humour as the next person, but quite frankly, I don’t find it particularly funny, when the driver has his foot firmly down on the accelerator pedal, hurtling round bends, overtaking, even in the dark, whilst answering his phone or scrolling through his contacts, one hand on the steering wheel, his concentration heaven knows where. As far as I’m concerned, this is almost as dangerous as being drunk or asleep at the wheel and we wouldn’t put up with that, would we? Call me old fashioned, but as far as I know Monsieur le chauffeur is actually being paid to drive a bus not to chat with friends and family, that’s the deal,right? Furthermore, I’d probably bet my last franc on the fact that neither received nor made calls are matters of life and death which cannot wait until the bus is safely at its destination. I’d wager too that said driver manages just fine not to pick his phone if the caller is chasing him for money or is someone our dangerous driver wants to avoid. How would you feel if your loved one was killed in a road accident because the driver just happened to be calling a friend, rather than concentrating on the road, when a truck came hurtling towards him and sent all the passengers to an early grave. I’m guessing you wouldn’t be too happy. Now, I’m pretty sure the Rwanda police force would also not too happy about the chatting driver but how to catch the offending one, that’s the tricky question. No sooner does the driver spot the men in blue, than his phone Is slipped rapidly out of sight and our reckless driver suddenly becomes a responsible one, eyes on the road, both hands on the steering wheel. So, it seems to me, the only solution to this life and death problem is…..passenger power. C’mon fellow passengers, if you value your lives at all, let’s join together and with one loud voice, insist the driver puts his phone away while our lives are in his hands.
I'm a VSO and am based at REB but go around Rwanda running writers' workshops to produce local children's stories. I've lived and worked in Gambia and Uganda and have travelled widely in Africa