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'Haste': A killer of choice on Jordan's roads

Apr 25,2018 - Last updated at Apr 25,2018

Speeding is not the biggest killer on our roads, according to traffic officials. In fact, it comes third after wrong overtaking and tailgating. But the denominator in these three fatal mistakes is "haste", or rash driving in a culture that is deeply rooted in our country, accepted and sometimes encouraged by many, maybe too many, members of the community.  

In 2016, there were 685 mostly preventable deaths on Jordan's roads. According to the World Health Organisation, road accidents were the sixth cause of death in Jordan, accounting in 2014 for more than 6 per cent of total deaths.

Let's admit it: All the awareness campaigns for the past decades have failed to make any substantial difference to the behaviour of Jordanians behind the steering wheel. Patience is not our best quality. In fact, it is almost nonexistent: We cross red lights, overtake other cars from the right lane at high speed and dangerously zigzag while not willing to give up our traffic priority to other users of the road, who, in turn, are so willing and determined to make us do.

Studies say that motorists who make fatal errors on the road do so because they want to "save time". What about "save lives" and billions in losses incurred by the national economy?

For the media, especially news websites and social media, it might be easier and more sensational to blame the road conditions and the minister of public works, but that is absurd. People who use the under-maintenance Desert Highway, for example, know the ride there is hazardous and, therefore, should be more cautious. 

If we establish that it is a matter of culture, we can agree that such a culture can be changed through awareness efforts and strict law enforcement. And since people tend not to listen to advice, as statistically proven, we are left with the second option, which is not really fulfilled. The ball is in the court of authorities and lawmakers, whose responsibility is to protect us, even from ourselves, whatever it takes. 

Hundreds of traffic cams have been installed, but their effect is limited, simply because drivers know their locations and ranges, and they would slow down for a few hundred metres before accelerating again. Officials say "traffic detectives" are active and can be setting up ambushes in unexpected locations. Does that include Abdoun after midnight?

Jordan needs a strategy and a future vision on how to control roads more effectively, both inside towns and on highways. This necessitates examining available high-tech solutions such as drones and electronic license plates. The rest of the world is doing that, and some countries have already started using these techniques to ensure safer roads. Such technologies save a lot of money and effort and render traffic and safety management more objective than subjective. Violators can argue with a traffic officer, hoping to convince him to forgive and forget, but they have no chance when an electronic device is involved. 

 

The writer is the deputy chief editor of The Jordan Times

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