Stunt driving in public spaces has become rampant in The Gambia, predominantly amongst high school-age teenagers. Over the past few years, this sport, also known as drifting, has led to serious damages, including deaths. Despite the condemnations and serious implications, it remains the go-to sport for many youngsters.
Drifting is a globally recognised motorsport discipline involving the driver intentionally oversteering a car to break the traction of the rear (or sometimes all four) types around a corner.
The Unending Chase
The Gambia police have been on a constant hunt for stunt drivers. On June 10, the police stormed a school, chasing after two female high school students who ran in there to seek refuge.
Shortly after the incident, a popular Gambian online medium, Whats-on-Gambia, reportedly received a written note from a student in the school saying:
“Despite any wrongdoing on the part of the students, they should have been treated with respect, given their young age. In an appalling display of indifference towards our concerns and objections, one of the officers decided to carry one of the girls, causing her to fall nearly. Outraged, we raised our voices collectively, prompting the officer to release her. Recognising the need to shed light on their behaviour and misguided belief in the appropriateness of their actions, some of us chose to record a video of the incident.”
See the full post here.
In expressing their view on the matter, Whats-on-Gambia wrote:
“Yes, she is right. PIU officers should stop using excessive power during arrests, but those young criminals involved in stunt driving and excessive speeding should not be given breathing space. They should all be locked up at Jeshwang Juvenile Prison since their useless parents cannot discipline them. Having rich parents with a few million dalasis in their bank accounts doesn’t mean you are above the law.”
The chase between the police and stunt drivers has been an unending ride. There have been press releases, media reports and huge public condemnations. Yet, this game continues to gain more popularity.
Last year, during one of their chases of two teenagers racing and stunt driving on the road, a police vehicle smashed into a compound.
According to Whats-on-Gambia, a letter emerging from Marina International School last week reads:
“Over the past few weeks, security had dealt with two to three cars approaching the school when students were released. They would drive very fast on the side roads, spin their wheels and ‘donuts’ on the road. Security has placed more men and women security guards to monitor and protect our students from these cowards.”
The letter further reads:
“They intended to hurt children. If your child has a person’s name in these criminal activities, pictures or videos of this crime, you can inform them and send them to the authorities. Let us work together to get these criminals and cowards in court before they kill one of our loved ones.”
Following this, the police arrested a teenager who nearly caused the death of a child outside Marina School.
There have been allegations that most teenage stunt drivers come from rich families, enabling them to exhibit great impunity. A case that attracted public attention and outrage was the killing of Omar Sanneh. In 2020, a national handball player Omar Sanneh died after being hit by a teenager racing on the road. Allegedly, the teenager left him lying on the road.
The Kanifing Magistrates Court ordered the detention of the teenager at Mile 2 Prison, pending his trial at the High Court. He was eventually released.
According to the Gambian law, manslaughter is not a bailable offence.
In a report by The Standard, the father of the victim is quoted to have said:
“I can’t take action against them; they are millionaires. Their son killed my son, and they decided to hide him, claiming he couldn’t be found. He killed my son and he just left him lying there in the street like a dog. It was very painful, and it’s still painful.”
Not A Crime?
Despite its danger to lives and property, including their own, these youngsters view this as a sport and not a crime. What’s-on-Gambia published some stories around the issue. Following their report on recent developments, the medium alleged to have received threatening messages from the drifters.
One is said to have written: “Remove the drift post. U gonna lose a lot of followers if u don’t. Hating on us. Drifting is passion (sic).”
Another said: “Drifting is not a crime. Even Barrow cannot control us.”
According to Section 49 (1) of the Motor Traffic Act, if a person drives a motor vehicle on the road, lorry park, or public place recklessly, or at speed or in a manner which is dangerous to the public, having regard to the circumstances of the case, including the nature, condition and use of the road, parking place or other public places, and the amount of traffic which is actually at the time, or which might reasonably be expected to be, on the road, parking place, or public place, he or she commits an offence.
In a report by Point Newspaper in March, the Minister of Health, at a validation meeting on National Trauma and Injury Plan, said:
“In fact, The Gambia happens to have a higher rate of deaths due to accidents and injuries than many other countries, even in the developed world.”
The act of recklessness and unlawfulness by the children or wards of a few rich parents in The Gambia is becoming a death trap on the roads. It is important that all stakeholders, particularly the police and the judiciary, must act within the law to mitigate, if not put an end to it.