Road Safety Awareness, Chapter 2: Responsibility on social media

Of all the aspects comprising the life of a contemporary individual, one of the least policed is social media. You can choose any persona you want and nobody will be the wiser. Thus arose the troll phenomenon: people who are intentionally repulsive just because they can, and because the consequences aren’t tangible, if at all they exist. However, the saying “It is on the Internet so it must be true” is sarcastic for those who don’t know, and this is beginning to have an effect in the local motoring industry. Some of us are taking the rubbish on the Internet a little too seriously for the wrong reasons.

Remember the recent matatu awards ceremony? It stood out in that one person lost his life during the proceedings, an unprecedented outcome. Typically, if there was loss of life at an awards ceremony, the first question would be, “Which rapper shot the other?”

No, the tragic incident happened when the winning matatu ran over one of its own fans, and this brought to the fore the question of social media. Whatever that young man was doing when he met his end is highly glorified online, ill-advised as it is.

The local authorities even crafted a law specifically banning that kind of behaviour, which people then proceeded to ruthlessly parody on their respective platforms; the activity being dangling outside a moving vehicle. We laughed, we opined, we ranted, we debated and then a young boy lost his life. Inappropriate as it sounds, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) had the last laugh on this one.

KILL THE NONSENSE

Stakeholders in the transport industry will decry the NTSA’s pest-like insistence on sucking the life out of them while ignoring the Exchequer connections; there is a good reason for this. PSV operators have made it clear that a blatant disregard for the law is a prerequisite for employment, and a clueless or deliberately ignorant fan base on social media is an added bonus. That is why after the young man’s death, there were still comments of “I will hang till I die! RIP So-and-so”.

That is why photos and videos of passenger buses pulling insane manoeuvres on the highways are greeted, not with scolding faces, but with open cheer in certain corners. And the more reckless, the higher the number of likes and the more vocal the defence when the matter is taken up by more sober minds. Is it any wonder, then, that these social media platforms, with populations running into tens of thousands, have a tangible effect on how PSV vehicles are operated?

People’s jobs are on the line depending on how many thumbs-up they get: you could get fired just because you were overtaken or because the music in your vehicle was not loud enough and someone (not always positively) influential pointed it out. That is social media for you. It, therefore, follows that the vehicle operators take this as a carte blanche to misbehave at will. After all, if the administrator of a 50,000-strong online cult is for you, who can be against you?

Wait till you meet the law, my friend. Or worse still, wait till you have the blood of dozens on your hands. Then you’ll tell us how much help those fans really are when you are either languishing in jail or can’t sleep at night. We need to save these unwise youths from themselves. They need to be stopped.

The buck stops with the owners (or investors, as they are sometimes called) of these vehicles. Kill the nonsense and cull the jokers. Divorce yourselves from entities that promote dangerous and illegal activities on the road. Just say no, it doesn’t matter if they have the backing of a million people: the entire million does not engender your client base.

These are people who rarely travel anyway.

Stay safe and arrive alive.

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