Motorcycles involved in 678 traffic accidents, cause unbearable disturbances [Archives:2008/1186/Reportage]

September 1 2008

Almigdad Mojalli
Although those using motorcycles to provide their only source of livelihood are the majority of drivers receiving sympathy from the General Traffic Administration in overlooking their violations, motorcycles are involved in a large proportion of accidents because their drivers often don't adhere to traffic rules.

Nadeem Al-Terzi, general manager of the Traffic Administration, stated that 678 road accidents occurred in 2007 and during the first half of 2008, most involving motorcycles.

“Motorcycles were involved in 403 accidents during 2007 and 275 during the first half of 2008 and, as is common knowledge, motorcycling accidents often result in casualties because they are uncovered/unprotected,” Al-Terzi noted.

One such example is 56-year-old Mohammed Ahmed Zubair, who lost his 21-year-old son in a motorcycle accident. “My son had sold all of his wife's jewelry to buy a motorcycle as their source of livelihood, but he lost his life in an accident a month later,” his father said sadly.

Um Abdullah Al-Sufyani, 35, recounts that her husband's leg was broken in a road accident while he was driving a motorcycle, forcing him to stay home for six months, during which time they borrowed more than YR 300,000 for both his treatment and their daily living expenses.

According to the Traffic Administration, motorcycles aren't even allowed to be rented.

Two years ago, the Capital Secretariat of Sana'a prevented motorcyclists from working within the city and compensated their owners. The Traffic Administration then stopped chasing motorcyclists, instead sympathizing with them because they have no other job opportunities, until another solution is determined.

Al-Terzi explains, “During the past few years, we've prevented motorcycles from working in Sana'a due to the damages they cause to both humans and the environment. We find that they contribute to polluting the environment, they cause road accidents mostly resulting in casualties, they create loud noise and they undermine traffic rules by their constant violations.”

In 2000, the Yemeni government issued a decree preventing the importation of motorcycles; however, it was unable to stop such smuggling across its borders.

For this reason, the Traffic Administration doesn't require motorcyclists to adhere to traffic rules, under the pretext that motorcycles aren't allowed to even enter Yemen, so there should be no traffic rules regulating them.

“Because most motorcyclist behaviors – such as not wearing a helmet, removing the muffler, installing radios or even renting motorcycles – are illegal, we'll try to find a way to solve this problem,” Al-Terzi noted.

In addition to causing road accidents and casualties, installing radios and removing motorcycle mufflers causes huge disturbances to others.

Nearly all cyclists install radios on their motorcycles and then play them at maximum volume – both day and night – with absolutely no regard for the elderly, the sick or students.

An extremely loud noise results from removing a motorcycle's muffler, thereby creating a huge disturbance for pedestrians walking on the streets.

Traffic officer Ahmed Al-Hashedi admits, “We really don't know how to deal with motorcyclists. If we prevent them from working in the city, they complain that we cut off their only source of livelihood; but if we let them work, the Traffic Administration won't enforce the traffic rules for them, nor do [motorcyclists] respect other people. They use loud radios and remove their [motorcycle's] mufflers, which disturbs people of all ages – without exception.”

Sana'a University student Abdulatif Al-Jabri says he and his friends suffer a lot from motorcyclists driving around at midnight, “About a dozen motorcycles gather around our house at midnight and then drive around the zone many times. We're students, so we need to go to sleep early in order to wake up early, but these guys disturb us a lot,” Al-Jabri complains.

The main reasons many Yemenis work via motorcycle are poverty and unemployment. Massive population explosion and unemployment have increased Yemen's poverty rate, thereby forcing many to work by motorcycle, although they know that they risk their lives.

For example, hundreds of Yemeni school and university students have left school to work by motorcycle in order to provide for their families' needs. Because most such dropouts don't trust the Yemeni government to provide job opportunities for them once they graduate, couple with the fact that their families are unable to provide for their study needs, they prefer to drop out and earn a living via motorcycle.

“You see thousands of university graduates who are jobless, although [President Ali Abdullah Saleh] promised during his election campaign that the government would employ all university graduates,” motorcyclist Ahmed Hamza, 22, noted.

Despite the high incidence of accidents and disturbances to other members of the public, poverty and unemployment compel numerous Yemenis to earn their living by motorcycle, while the Traffic Administration is unable to regulate such cyclists' traffic movements.