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.