Careless Car Drivers in Yemeni Cities Recklessly Jeopardizing People’s Lives [Archives:1999/45/Focus]

November 8 1999

Tawfeek AL-Shara’abi 
Yemen Times 
It came as a shock! I never expected that there could be some people devoid of mercy and kindness to such a degree. Let me narrate what I experienced a few days ago. 
I was walking in Haddah street which is frequently crowded with people and cars. All of a sudden I heard the shrieking sound of brakes of a vehicle and loud screaming voices of some people. I rushed to the spot to see what happened. I saw a small boy run over by a car. The boy was bleeding profusely. I asked, “Where is the driver?” One the people gathering at the place said in a low voice, “Here he is.” The driver was a young guy who appeared to be from a well-to-do family. He was looking indifferently at the boy who was groaning with pain. I could hear him utter some filthy expressions in English. His car was three meters away. Traces of his cars tiers due to his sudden push on the brakes were clearly seen on the road. 
Another one standing there told me that he was driving like a maniac moving from one side to another and that music was blasting from the car. He tried to escape after he hit the boy but could not as there were two cars in front of him. There were some young guys in his car. “I’ll take him to hospital,” the young man said. Then, he called one of his friends inside the car who took the boy in and drove away. 
He told us this sentence in such a casual way that made me feel as if the accident was nothing to make a fuss about. I was among many who were standing there spellbound. 
Car accidents have of late become a frequently occurring phenomenon in many cities of our country, especially in Sana’a. Every day we hear about an accident that ended up killing victims or seriously injuring them “in our large and big roads.” Statistics reveal that the death toll in such accidents have reached a staggering number. What a pity that more often than not, children are the main victims of these speedy cars whether in cities or on highways. These children, who spend most of their time in streets, become an easy prey to such speedy cars. 
Another tragic event that cost a small girl her life and injured her sister happened near the building of the Yemen Times. The car belongs to a well-off person holding a good position in a prosperous company. It happened around 10 a.m. The road was empty except for some children who were playing. However, the driver was driving at break-neck speed and could not stop the vehicle in time to save the small girl who was holding her small sister in her arms. He ran over her and killed her on the spot. He also hit the small one and threw her some meters away. She was fatally injured. 
I myself have almost been crushed three times since I came to Sana’a. Each time I escaped these cars by chance and each time the drivers stared at me arrogantly and drove away. 
Some months ago we learned about the catastrophic accident which occurred to the late Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Saqqaf and claimed his life. This accident cost Yemenis one of the very few patriots who if were spared would have done miracles for the welfare of his society. It was again another reckless, ignorant guy driving madly in a crowded street. The accident is over, the victim gone and the punishment that may befall the accused is still a far cry off. Until now the criminal is still at large. 
Such accidents are common in Yemen. I cannot understand why such people are left without an exemplary penalty. While I was discussing the issue of increased incidence of car accidents with a friend and the unruly drivers, he said, “Money is the reason. There is a specific segment of the people who went from rags to riches. They want to show that they have means of power and as the English proverb says, ‘Money talks!’.” He said that they use such fabulous cars just to show off before the public. Naturally, the sons are influenced by the fathers’ attitude and follow suit. Some fathers encourage their sons by not teaching them good driving manners. No sooner than there is an accident or break-down and their fathers buy new and better cars for them. Therefore, these children have come to believe that their father’s money can buy them everything; new cars and even the lives of people they crush. 
However, showing off one’s wealth and entertaining oneself should not be at the expense of people’s lives. Such drivers have become so alarmingly indifferent to pedestrians and people crossing the streets. The moment they get into their cars, they forget themselves and they become the monarchs who have absolute power and control. These people are extremely snobbish and have not got any sense of mercy in their hearts. This is evident from the increasing cases of car accidents resulting in colossal loss of lives. 
Furthermore, some drivers find amusement and joy by crushing people in streets. It has become a fashion these days. If a driver sees his friend in a street, he welcomes him by trying to crush him. Can you believe it? What an expression of love!! 
It is actually distressing to see these drivers drive madly through streets fearing none. Sometimes you can only listen to the noisy music that is booming inside. What is most agonizing is that you sometimes see young kids driving “Army” or “Police” cars. Such cars have been granted to these officials to help them maintain law and order. However, what happens is that those officials who are supposed to protect lives are those who are instrumental in killing them. Sometimes you could hardly notice the driver because he is hardly noticeable. All this makes me wonder, “who should we blame?” 
Obviously, the tenets of law and order are honored more by their breach of the law than by their observance of it. Otherwise we could see that these violators are subject to the heaviest penalties as a warning to prevent such events. The Traffic Administration has always played the role of an onlooker or a bystander. They are indeed the ones to blame. They should frame strict rules and apply them without fear and favor, equally to all. Kids should not be allowed to drive at all, and strong penalties should be imposed when such cases occur. Unfortunately, nothing like this ever happens in this country. Officials should be the model in maintaining law and order. Army as well as Police cars should be used to save people’s lives and protect them. Their owners should be regularly supervised and monitored to check if they abide by the rules or not. In cases of proven violation of rules severe punishments should be imposed, and their cars should be confiscated. We look forward to seeing a concrete agenda of action by the Traffic Administration and not mere empty words.