Preparing for my recent driving trips to Kenya, I found that road security getting worse.
Everyone I spoke to, has either suffered from an incident or knows personally, of someone who has. In Nairobi alone, there are on average 64 car-jackings per week – this equates to roughly one every three hours! There are many theories as to why the situation is so bad … and deteriorating … but as a visitor to the city, I am more interested in how to stay out of trouble.
First Line of Defense
The first line of defence in any situation like this, has to be the gathering, verification and analysis of, what is known in security speak as “protective intelligence”. Sounds fancy, but what it means is getting as much information about what is happening where, when and how – about the type of threat you may be facing.
Once you have “armed” yourself with this information, you can then get a fair overall picture of which areas are the most crime prevalent, what time of day they are taking place, what type of “hit” (tactic) they are using and what are the likely targets.
Of course, this information can change from week to week and day-to-day, so constant updates are important. Where from? Newspapers give reports on the higher profile crimes; other people – especially ones that are living there and /or have recently travelled there; information databases.
Do a Reality Check
… the threat is real and it can happen to me, if I don’t take the appropriate measures. Obviously, staying out of trouble is a lot easier than getting out of trouble, however, we don’t want to become paranoid and avoid not living a life. We still have to go about our daily grind and so, armed with this info can we safely hit the roads? Well, it’s not that easy.
We now have to keep our eyes open to deal with not just the bad driving, but for the bad guys, as well. We have to be able to recognise the indicators of the situation evolving. We have to know where to go in times of trouble; safe havens where we will not be followed. Hospitals, just in case someone gets injured. We also have to familiarise ourselves with our routes that we will be using and any alternatives. We need to know any short cuts and definitely dead ends!
Therefore, we need to be in and be able to keep the correct awareness level while driving. So many people see their vehicles as an extension of their living room and, unfortunately, are in the same mindset as someone watching the telly. Although they may be driving the vehicle down the road, their minds are somewhere else. In this state they can be easily surprised and shocked. This is what the criminal element wants. They are almost totally reliant on the “shock” tactic. This type of mindset is not only dangerous from a security point of view; it is also a major contributor to road MVCs.
A good tool to help us stay in the correct awareness level is the colour code system. This was initially devised by an American called Jeff Cooper for the US Military to keep the correct awareness level when in combat. But it’s simplicity adds to it’s effectiveness and it’s application to different situations. If we apply it to the situation for this article, then it goes as follows:
We feel safe. We are relaxed in our armchairs watching Man. U beating Arsenal and celebrating with a few cold Bells. Not where we should be when behind the wheel of a vehicle. But I bet you know someone who drives in this mindset. In this state of mind you can and will be easily surprised and shocked even if Arsenal do score.
We are concentrating on the job at hand, which is safely controlling and moving the vehicle from A to B. We are generally conscious of what is happening around the vehicle – 360 degrees. In this state of mind, we can identify the indicators of a potential MVC or security incident starting to evolve. We have the time to make an appropriate decision about what to do. This is where we should be, whenever we get behind the steering wheel. We can maintain this condition indefinitely without any nervous strain.
We have recognised the indicators and we are now specifically conscious of a threat materialising. We know what it can materialise into and we are prepared to take the appropriate action.
The situation has materialised and we have to take evasive action. All systems are go. If you have jumped from White to Red then you will be surprised and shocked. And caught.
Applying Awareness Levels to Defensive Driving
This also applies to MVC avoidance. If we are driving along in condition white and the first thing we notice is a child running onto the road to pick up a ball then we are likely to hit and kill the child.
- In Yellow, we will have noticed the ball kicked onto the road.
- In Orange, we have the opportunity to change the way we drive, to suit the situation. We anticipate a child may run out to retrieve the ball – we are ready to go to Red.
- In Red, the child runs onto the road without looking. We are prepared and carry out the evasive manoeuvre /brake to avoid hitting him /her.