Headlights Optional

Until we have a chance to buy vehicles, we’re sharing a rental car.  When Thom got home from work last night I thought, now’s my chance to run and get a printer.  So, just after sunset I took off for what I thought would be an easy, peaceful drive into town.


It was one of the most harrowing experiences I’ve had!  (And I’ve had plenty, including flying in a little 4 passenger jet by a non-instrument licensed pilot through clouds in Namibia.  He kept the plane so close to the ground on our way back to Windhoek from some village areas on the border of Angola that I swear we could have thrown a rope out and shimmied down.  But, at least we were under the clouds instead of flying blind through them.)  On some of the public health projects I’ve worked on, the funding agency had a rule that no staff on their projects could drive after dark in rural Africa.  Now I know why.

When driving at night, about a third of the vehicles either do not use their lights, have only one working light, or only use their parking lights.  This, coupled with the fact that the center lines appear to have been painted with just regular paint, instead of reflective paint, makes it very difficult to see hazards until they’re right before your face.

Remember, it’s pitch black (no street lamps) so you can’t see where the road begins or ends beyond your headlights.  Then, when you see a single light you are sometimes misled into thinking it’s a motorcycle only to come upon it and the whole inside part of the car is practically in your lane, so you have to swerve to miss it.

The worst is when a car without headlights (meaning you don’t know it’s there) is coming head-on towards you in your lane because it’s passing one of the many (many!) slow moving trucks/buses and just when you see it 50 feet ahead of you (range of your lights) it swerves back into its lane.  These blind cars come out of nowhere.

When we arrived here last Thursday I remember saying to Thom, “we can’t drive at night out here,” and yet I didn’t take my own advice!  From now on I’ll listen to me…:)

p.s.  Just found this factoid from a state report:  Road Traffic Accidents have been ranked the third highest cause of death in Zambia after HIV/AIDS and Malaria

p.s.s.  The store was closed.



About Kimm X Jayne

Gravatar Photograph from the exceptionally talented Ben Heine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/benheine/3794765860/
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5 Responses to Headlights Optional

  1. Lisa Murray-Johnson says:

    Okay, that was certainly icing on the cake wasn’t it? that the store was closed ! Scary to be on the roads –no driving at night is best. Right now in Ohio we are get 3-5 inches of snow, so those lush green areas of Zambia are looking really, really good to me right now.

  2. Gigi says:

    TRAVEL SAFELY! Be safe Ms. Kimm!!! EEEYIKES!

  3. Chris H. says:

    Reminds me of the days when gas was 25 cents a gallon … a bottle of Boone’s Farm was under a dollar … and for 50 cents each, four reckless teens would drive the back roads and two-tracks on a Saturday night. Of course, we had headlights — just no common sense, no destination in mind.

  4. Marge says:

    Okay, I know it must have been insane for you are never scared! Hang in there!

  5. Bridget says:

    loveyour P.S. made me LOL

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