The faster you go, the faster you go!
If something is easy, I say it is as ‘easy as eating matooke’. So one of my ‘eating matooke’ moment is driving on a smooth highway.
The Northern By-pass, for example, is a favourite of mine after the fall of night for being clear of traffic and allowing a whoosh all the way for 21 km with little interruption. The Tirinyi road was a haven for un-commissioned drag racing by friends on whose car is bigger, better and faster. On the Gulu highway, one can see over ten kilometres ahead on a flat straight road!
Not so the Masaka-Mbarara route. The terrain here is rugged and calls for as many climbing lanes as almost every other kilometre, making driving rather harder than ‘eating matooke’.
Often, I find vehicles moving at different speeds. It is, therefore, not surprising that the road designers threw in a few climbing lanes. These are lanes of the roadway where slower moving vehicles conveniently shunt aside for faster moving traffic when going up a steep gradient. Slower traffic usually covers Bus coaches, and large trucks or semi-trailer trucks which are plenty here; carrying cattle, milk, matooke and other foods.
They compete for the road with smaller and more agile vehicles; commercial and private. There will be an occasional VIP convoy or the deafening sirens of a funeral service van all appearing from the rear-view mirror and disappearing as fast as they appeared or lazily haggling up the hill in front of you, leaving you choking in a cloud of soot from an over working un-roadworthy engine. Since heading uphill is difficult for some of these vehicles, they can travel in the climbing lane without slowing traffic behind them.
On such a road, a motorist cannot afford to blink. Worse still, some sections have animals crossing. Some of these animals are herded, others wild, and fleeing from eh… poachers –this being national parks territory.
Unfortunately, while all these factors contribute to the high rates of carnage on our highways, ignorance about climbing lanes remains the biggest malaise.
Climbing lane accidents happen mainly for three reasons: ignoring the rules, impatience, and absence of signage and markings.
Climbing lanes don’t just pop-up; an advance array of signage tells drivers of fast moving cars seething with rage at the slower one ahead that they will soon have a chance to pass. Another sign warns when the lane is ending so drivers in the right-hand lane can begin to merge safely with traffic in the left-hand lane. At least that is the way it should be done.
Sadly, you often find a slow huge truck struggling with a steep gradient while maintaining position in the ‘fast’ lane and ignoring the climbing one. An impatient motorist with a more agile vehicle will be tempted to overtake from the right. Sometimes this manoeuvre has fatal consequences because any slight jerk by the huge truck to the right throws the overtaking small car off the road, probably off a cliff and into the statistics of deaths on the road!
But that’s with the assumption that the climbing lanes are demarcated and marked as such. Sometimes, the road signs have fallen prey to vandals who use them for scrap metal works.
This challenge can also be exacerbated by the motorist going downhill. Usually in our two-lane highways, where there is a climbing lane, it’s forbidden to overtake when driving downhill. But many motorists just will not heed this and so you often will meet head-on collisions at spots where there is a well demarcated and marked climbing lane and a no-overtaking signage for cars gong downhill.
Because the road is smooth and the cars are powerful, many motorists literally take the ‘easy as eating Matooke’ experience of driving the highway literally. But who said eating Matooke doesn’t call for caution to check how hot the pulp is before making the killer bite for example?
So while hitting the highway is as easy as ‘eating matooke’ it should not be lost on motorist that the adage, the faster you go, the faster you go[read die] also holds true!