By FLEVIAN MUTIE
The sound of siren is heard from afar, getting louder as it draws close by. The urgency to rush grows every second, but the drivers in the front sit in their vehicles, stiff as stones, and unshaken, as the siren continues to fill the air, spreading through the neighborhood. Lights do not turn, and traffic doesn’t open, eventually the ambulance runs through the rough pavement, in a struggle to reach the hospital in the soonest possible. Some drivers also pull out of the road in an attempt to evade the snarl up, and the result is a traffic gridlock all the way, that ends up blocking everything, including the ambulance.
Will the patient survive? The patient may have been in a comma or badly injured, and may not make it to the hospital, simply due to negligence, where a driver somewhere did not give way, and ended up delaying the ambulance more than expected. It is said that a little courtesy goes a very long way.
Courtesy is a very viable ingredient in our everyday lives. Like common sense, courtesy is vital to our daily lives in our society. However, it seems rare. Lack of courtesy prevails where rudeness, incivility and impoliteness dominate. Courtesy simply means treating others how you would like them to do unto you, and mostly not expecting anything in return.
With the road traffic increasing day by day, ambulance drivers face a tough task everyday of ensuring that patients get to the designated hospitals, and in the right time. Motorists, not just in Kenya or Africa, but all over the world, are advised to pave way for any emergency vehicle, either an ambulance, fire brigades, among other emergency service providers, because whenever it is seen, and especially with a siren and flashing lights, it means that a life is at stake, therefore, please give way. But this happens with very few drivers as everyone is always on the rush, even when traffic is at a standstill.
Dr Tim Kiruhi, a University Vice Chancellor says that nothing is ever lost through courtesy. “This is the cheapest of all the pleasures and it costs nothing as well, but it conveys a lot and sends a very big gesture. Courtesy pleases both those who give and those who receive, and thus, just like mercy, consequently, one gets to connect to a bigger network of humanity at a deeper and personalized level as they expand their knowledge and insights of humanity.” He says.
Kiruhi adds that on the unfortunate, Kenya’s current road transport system is worrying because the prevailing road traffic anarchy causes crashes that directly affect both the income and the economy, as a very huge chunk of money is lost through these traffic snarl-ups. He adds that despite brimming with huge growth potential, Kenya has registered slow progress mainly due to lack of courtesy, sharing of the little resources that we have, in terms of infrastructure, water and electricity, among others, so that we can all thrive and expand together.
He further states that in some western countries, motorists must give way to emergency vehicles by moving to either sides of the road to pave way for the ambulance upon hearing the siren. As a researcher, I discovered that over 18,000 patients transported in ambulances die annually in East Africa, with Kenya having the majority. “If only other vehicles gave way, we would be counting survivors, and not patients who have succumbed to conditions, because their lives could be saved if ambulances could reach hospitals faster than they do.” He says.
The NTSA Director General, Francis Meja, recently passed a law where all drivers should pave way for emergency vehicles. “All offenders will have their licenses revoked and will remain suspended and may even face charges in court due to the same. Even when an emergency vehicle, especially an ambulance doesn’t have a casualty on board, there may be a patient somewhere they are going to carry, the bottom line is that the refusal of drivers to stop or give way to an emergency vehicle lowers the chances of survival of a patient, either through a fire or critical illness, and the life may be lost, simply because the ambulance couldn’t reach them in the right time, so by giving way, we are saving lives. They should not drive fast before the emergency vehicle or trail it, it is unlawful. ” Says Meja.
Fredrick Gitau, a Nairobi resident says he drives to work daily, and he is faced with the traffic menace every day upon hitting on the road. “With the courtesy call dictating that we give way to one another, the issue at hand is the Nairobi’s infrastructure. Some roads are so narrow that you cannot even pull out of the road to give way to anyone. The most ambitious project right now would be expanding the roads especially to ease such congestion and also ensure that emergency vehicles get to their designated destinations in time.
“Courtesy is a silver lining that subdues the dark clouds of civilization, and it’s the best part of refinement in many ways. It is an art of heroic beauty in the vast gallery of man's cruelty and baseness. I would like to call on fellow drivers to exercise both caution and courtesy, and also call on the Kenya government to continue with the launch and the implementation of the BRT system that flopped and halted, and by so doing we will be talking of problems half-solved.” Gitau says.