Traffic accidents blood on streets [Archives:2004/740/Community]

May 24 2004

Yasser Mohammed Al-Mayyasi
Few days ago, the Arab Unified Traffic Week was concluded. It has become an annual event celebrated by Arab countries including Yemen. However, the celebrations in Yemen might it be a little different since they focus on holding photographic exhibitions and revealing alarming statistics about the traffic accidents and horrifying images of unfortunate victims, which unfolded the intensity of traffic accidents and the lives lost daily from them. The means of transport and road network in Yemen have become life-threatening tools due to the apathy, negligence and carelessness of all kinds of drivers and the failure to respect safety and police traffic rules, signs and regulations.
The true numbers reflect the extent of the appalling problem traffic accidents constitute. 10749 traffic accidents took place during the year 2003, resulting in 2447 fatalities and 14545 cases of injury, ranging from moderate to serious injuries with temporary and permanent disabilities. The financial and material losses are estimated at 2.3 billion Riyals.
2372 accidents have been reported throughout Yemen during the first quarter of the year 2004, leading to 560 cases of death and 3635 cases of related injuries varying between moderate and serious injuries, with estimated financial losses of 545 million Riyals.
There are many reasons leading to tragic car accidents, but the most obvious ones are high speed driving on narrow roads, the reckless driving of many drivers including minors, driving in opposite directions and the lack of respect of even basic traffic rules, signs and regulations from both drivers and pedestrians. Many drivers do not know the difference between driving on the left lane from the right lane and do not know how to bring a vehicle properly to a complete stop in any normal situation, needless to say in an emergency situation.
With regard to daily traffic violations, they are many, such as illegal parking on roads and even on designated parking spaces, speeding, driving in the opposite direction, the lack of obedience to red lights, and driving without a valid driving license. In the absence of policemen at major intersections, many drivers simply ignore the red traffic light.
As far as young drivers are concerned, they do not first of all bear proper permits to drive and they are the least to respect traffic lights, signs and rules because they are the offspring of high level government officials, influential dignitaries and descendants of rich families and businessmen. Some of those minors are provided cars to get to their schools as their prestige does not allow them to use public transport, but the vast majority of them have access to cars only to show off their high social status. Due to the lack of driving experience, lack of respect for traffic lights and regulations and high speed, those minors are constantly jeopardizing the lives of other obedient drivers and innocent pedestrians. They frequently cause tragic accidents and sometimes, they themselves fall victims to their reckless driving and misbehavior, not counting the damage they cause to public and private property such as the electricity poles, advertisement billboards and cars involved in accidents.
While high speed is considered the primary cause of traffic accidents, the high number of running cars on the streets in comparison with the limited capacity of the narrow roads and streets to allow smooth flow of traffic, the overload on vehicles with passengers or goods and the safety of cars and the mechanical conditions of vehicles, including proper conditions of tires of the cars, are also contributing factors behind traffic accidents.
Traffic rules, regulations and signs must be implemented practically. The burden of implementing them does not solely fall on the shoulders of the police traffic department. It is the responsibility of the whole society, drivers and pedestrians. Whenever there is an acceptance of the need to abide by the law, the easier it becomes to implement it. The various media organizations (TV, radio and newspapers) must contribute in spreading traffic awareness, especially by TV since it is the most widely spread and watched. TV channels must provide programs related to spreading basic traffic rules among the citizens and to inform them of the serious dangers to not abide by traffic, lights, rules and regulations. The Ministry of Education must include the subject of traffic rules and regulation in the educational curriculum for the next generation to fully understand them.
Therefore, the resolution of the traffic problem and reducing the number of unnecessarily traffic accidents remains the responsibility of all members of the society, citizens and the government.