Driving in Kenya
Listed below are some helpful guidelines and recommendations that ought to be considered when on the move in Kenya.
- Be familiar with the route to be traveled prior to departure. Know road conditions, distances, towns; the location of hospitals, police stations, hotels and petrol stations.
- Ensure that the vehicle is roadworthy. Check all lights, check tires including spare, check brakes.
- If you are traveling out of Nairobi, make sure that somebody knows of your plans.
- Ensure that you always carry a valid driving license.
- If you acquire the services of a driver, ensure that s/he always carries a valid drivers license.
- Lock all vehicle doors upon departure.
- Keep all windows shut or at least a maximum of 10 cm open when driving in Nairobi, or off major roads.
- Do not have valuable items such as briefcases, cameras or laptops openly visible inside your vehicle.
- It is not advisable to travel after dark unless for short distances in busy areas that you are familiar with.
- Avoid driving alone.
- When approaching your vehicle, ensure that the car keys are in your hand or easily accessible in a pocket. Standing by your vehicle and searching for such items in bags or briefcases presents opportunities for thieves.
- Do not stop to assist stranded motorists unless you know them.
- Vehicles should bear stickers identifying the medical-care provider along with emergency contact telephone numbers.
It is advisable to pay particular attention to the following recommendations. These precautions limit the likelihood of carjacking.
- Establish several routes to locations you frequent often i.e. office or a school. Vary you travel time along these routes.
- Pay particular attention to routines that cannot be changed. Be aware of the opportunities for potential exposure to risk created by such predictability.
- Learn to identify local routine, such as regular community events (sporting, concerts) that may negatively impact your own driving routines.
Attempts at carjacking
There are usually one of four methods employed by car thieves when attempting to take possession of your vehicle.
1. The ROADBLOCK
In order for this method to succeed, it is important from the thieves’ point of view to ensure that the roadblock is only visible to you at the last moment thereby limiting your potential for positive response. With that in mind the most opportune locations for roadblocks are either on the blind side of bends in the road, or on the down side of a rise or hill. When driving; particularly during the hours of darkness, it is advisable when approaching hills or bends to reduce speed and give yourself the opportunity to come to a controlled stop and/or turn around should the need arise.
2. The ACCIDENT
This method requires the vehicle traveling behind to bump or nudge you. The idea here is to make you stop in the belief that a minor accident has just occurred and that the driver’s details ought now to be exchanged and damage examined. During the hours of darkness it is difficult if not impossible to identify and assess the number of individuals in the vehicle behind. Should such an accident occur, do not stop but drive directly to a police station.
3. The GOOD SAMARITAN
This method targets your sense of humanitarianism and decency. As you drive along you will come across a person lying unconscious by the side of the road, usually a secondary road or one that is not especially busy. Naturally you want to stop and assist. Do not stop. You can of course reduce your speed. Look around for evidence of an accident; a gathering crowd, damaged vehicle or bicycle, evidence of injuries such as blood. Your best course of action is to immediately go to a police station and report the incident.
4. The GATE
This is perhaps the most familiar method by which thieves take possession of your vehicle. It occurs as you arrive at, or depart from residential and commercial properties. Usually you will have come to a stop as you wait for the property gates to be opened and it is then that another vehicle will arrive and block you in. It is common in these situations for the thieves to follow you to you residence and to have prior knowledge of your driving routes and timings. When leaving the office and driving home, pay attention to any vehicle; particularly one with a number of male occupants, that appears to be following you. Make it obvious that you are aware of their presence by looking in the rear view mirror several times. This removes the element of surprise that the thieves rely heavily upon. Do not speed off in an effort to lose your pursuers. Stay calm and think of where you are, what facilities are close to you? Are you near a police station, petrol station or hotel? Stay on roads you know. Do not turn down unfamiliar streets. If you are within the proximity of your residence, do not drive in but continue on to a public place or police station. If you notice a car loitering near your gate as you arrive, again, do not drive in but continue on to a public place or police station.
When stopped by carjackers
- Be compliant. Obey all demands without appearing too servile or antagonistic.
- Do not make rapid movements. Keep your hands in sight at all times.
- Speak only when spoken to. Answer all questions slowly and clearly.
- Inform carjackers of all actions before making them. For example: “I am now unfastening my seatbelt.” The carjackers may otherwise believe that you are reaching for a weapon.
- Exit the vehicle slowly, leave all property in the vehicle including the ignition keys.
- Once left by the roadside, locate help immediately. Flag down any motorist, and the matter should be reported at the nearest police station to where you were abandoned. It should also be reported to the police station nearest to where the carjacking took place.