The year is 2006 and I start my year with a bang, with driving lessons at AA. I wish I could say that I was excited to be finally learning to drive a car and that it was on my wish list of things to do. Actually, it wasn’t. I wasn’t excited to be learning to drive, to be truthful I was terrified. My father died in a car accident when I was 10 so the idea of driving for me was something I didn’t want to consider. But how could I tell my mum that, when she was generously paying for driving lessons for me and my sister at the same time? I think for her she thought she was doing us a great favour. Because of my fear of driving, I had never tried to drive before, so unlike many of my friends who were just going to driving school as a formality for the legal process, I was going in a complete rookie.
The second reason I wasn’t excited was that I knew that although I was going to driving school I would not be allowed to touch my mum’s car to drive it around. Have you met those people who take care of their cars like the car is a child and always drive within the speed limit and slower? The kind of driver who is a careful driver to a fault, you know the kind of driver the insurance companies love because they will go for years without insurance claims. That right there is my mum down to a T. Can you imagine that kind of driver just handing over the keys of their car to somebody else to drive their car when they are not around to supervise?
I went anyway because I didn’t have a choice. Because I was a boarder I only had one week of daily classes then weekly classes on Saturday. So it was natural that in practicals classes I would be behind my sister. I loved studying the driving signs, they appealed to me. The driving theory board was difficult to muster at first because the way your mind logically thinks and the law are two different things. Remember being told to move the car to a different street through a roundabout. It was something I came to master eventually.
The first time I had to get into the car and drive I was terrified. I don’t think I was mentally prepared. Trying to balance the clutch, the brakes and the gears were crazy. Of course, I kept stepping on the clutch because I was terrified to give the car a little mafuta, which basically means add speed. Eventually, I got comfortable but the day I had to go down Valley Road and go up to Mombasa Road was an experience in itself. Being a beginner on a highway can be terrifying when you are a beginner, you start thinking about whether you may have to sort out that fee for accidents that the driving school said you will pay if you crash or have an accident. My instructor was a lady and she was very patient with me though.
Many lessons later I was ready although my 3 point turn was a challenge; I even had to take extra classes just because of my 3 point turn. As luck would have it that is exactly what the policeman asked me to do during my driving test in Karen. I don’t know about you but our driving test was one of those experiences I remember vividly. Some of the questions I was asked I can’t remember but it was scary being shown the board and then you are told to drive that little car somewhere else. That is when everything you have been training for becomes real; you panic and get temporary amnesia, and can’t remember anything. You have to focus and try to relax as you face some harsh traffic cops who will fail you for one mistake. If they tell you that you have passed you leave the room saying prayers of thanksgiving. But you know that you have gone through the smoke, the fire is still coming.
We were four of us from our driving school and another lorry full of glory school drivers. All of the students of AA had to enter our car and we would take turns driving then the policeman would ask us to do something. I went last. The first lady was so nervous the car kept switching off, and it took quite some time to get momentum. The cop of course kept barking instructions. Imagine the guy just before I failed because he didn’t put on his seatbelt when he started driving. On one of those Karen back roads and up a hill I was told to drive and make a 3-point turn. I was scared, but I had practised and practised with my instructor so I did it well. The a huge sigh of relief when the cop said I had passed.
Getting my interim license after that made it all worth it. 3 months seemed like a long time but soon it was time to go to get my driving license. Getting that red booklet made all the stress worth it. But it was such a long process, I remember standing in line to get my license, it took hours and at the time Times Tower was such an intimidating building.
This past Monday I sat at my computer, opened the ecitizen website and applied for the renewal of my driving license. In less than 20 minutes I was done. A process that used to take hours at first at Times Tower, then became easier with banks but was still time-consuming, was done in 20 minutes. I didn’t have to take a matatu or use fare or stand in line. Using MPESA on the eCitizen platform has its advantages.
The process is simple.
1. Go to ecitizen.go.ke. Use your ID number and enter your first name to register.
2. You will then receive an email to confirm your email address.
3. If you are applying for a driving license or any other road license then go to the National Transport and Safety authority tab shown on the left.
4. Click on submit an application
5. There are various options for applying for a license. I was applying for a one-year driving license renewal so I clicked on 4.
6. You will be told how much you are to pay. Click on apply now to choose your payment options.
7. Click on the MPESA payment. It will give you instructions on how to pay.
8. After that it will process the payment and they will send you a notification that you have been successful in getting your driving license.
9. Click on print for you to get your license as a PDF, print this and then fix this to your driving license.
Pretty simple right. No more queues at the bank or KRA. Or feeling like you are about to have a heart attack during the weekend when you realize your license has expired and you need your license renewed. All you need is a computer, and internet and then MPESA will come to your rescue. All the services that you can access on eCitizen can be found here.