We have collectively failed!
Failure is defined as one of many things: Lack of success; the neglect or omission of expected or required action; or the action or state of not functioning (Oxford Dictionaries). Regretfully, all three conditions apply to the worsening traffic conditions and the unbridled increase of traffic violations and fatal accidents in the country to which we have all contributed.It starts with the diminishing success of the traffic department. Do they have the right programs, tests and examinations to ensure that all motorists fully comprehend road rules before licenses are granted? Are the instructions clear and applicable to our road conditions? Are testing centers manned by qualified and dedicated instructors and examiners, or are they staffed by individuals who would rather be employed somewhere else?In an environment where you could have more than 40 nationalities on the road at any given time, does everyone behind the wheel know what the driving etiquette is? Is the language of instructions clear to everybody who sits for a driving test? Do all those motorists issued driving licenses know what the traffic laws are? Can they be blamed if they are issued a license even though they are unqualified?Then follows the application of existing traffic laws. My years on the roads here have allowed me to witness traffic police sitting idly in their patrol cars while motorists were breaking traffic laws in full view. Rarely have I seen a patrol car flag down an offender unless the culprit was caught in broad daylight while driving at twice the speed limit.Traffic violations are not simply confined to speeding, which has contributed to a disproportionate number of fatalities in the Kingdom as compared to other countries. Among the most blatant and rarely rebuked violations are eight- or nine-year-old boys driving the family car on a busy street, failure to stop at traffic lights, turning left from the extreme right lane in traffic, double and triple parking on the side of the road for a quick errand, using the highway shoulder for overtaking, driving with an infant on the lap, not using seat belts, etc., etc. This is a shared failure between us and the traffic authorities: We the public for not respecting traffic laws and the traffic department for not enforcing them.Then there is the criminal activity against any means of monitoring traffic violations. When cameras were introduced to spot those breaking the law, the abusers became more imaginative or downright hostile. They covered their license plates or switched them, harassed the camera monitoring personnel and physically intimidated them, or in some areas took pot shots at the cameras in an attempt to bring them down. These are the worst kinds of violations as they stand out as complete defiance of the Kingdom’s laws.All of this has led to a noticeable lack of discipline and road etiquette today, forcing even the better drivers to take remedial measures often at the risk of breaking the law themselves. Thus, we witness chaos and confusion on our roads and I doubt that there would be many who would argue against such an assessment. Where cameras are installed to catch speeding cars, motorists slow down, only to floor the gas pedal once they pass them.Properly resurfaced and paved roads appear to give our road warriors an incentive to speed as fast as they can, just as professional drivers do on a Formula 1 track. But these are not professional drivers driving safe cars. Some of the vehicles on our roads are poorly maintained with questionable tires, brakes or other safety mechanisms.So what do we do? It is said that failure is a necessary forerunner to success. We must admit that our current system has not met our needs at this moment in time, and that the public’s lack of discipline has dramatically contributed to the record number of traffic accidents in the country.Two quick fixes could be steps in the right direction. To begin with, I would like the authorities to adopt the stringent system of licensing and testing similar to the program carried out in the UAE. No one should be granted the privilege of driving unless they have gone through extensive classroom and road tests.The other fix would be to address our lack of discipline and concern for others sharing the road by having all vehicles installed with speed controls set to a max of 110 km/h. This is not an outrageous idea, and vehicle manufacturers could easily modify their vehicles with speed limiters. In September, the European Union proposed to fit all cars with speed limiters which would stop them from exceeding a certain limit under new EU road safety measures. The aim is to cut deaths from road accidents by a third. If we are not able to effectively enforce traffic laws, then this could be a viable option. Failure to take action will continue to contribute to the chaos on our roads. — The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena