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Jordan lacks comprehensive strategy to tackle road accidents

Apr 22,2018 - Last updated at Apr 22,2018

It was very painful to see pictures of Saturday evening’s car accident, in which eight people were killed, including MP Mohammad Amamreh and his family, splattered in all newspapers, news websites and across all social media.

Traffic police said they were still investigating the cause of the accident, with many blaming the deteriorating state of the Desert Highway, where the accident took place, and others blaming speeding. The wreckage of the two vehicles involved in the collision — the deputy’s SUV and a winch truck — indicates that the accident took place at high speed. This, of course, does not exclude other reasons.

This grave accident, like many others we witness every now and then, comes as a reminder of the need to take immediate action to tackle the situation on our roads: to make them more orderly, less stressful, and most importantly, less dangerous. Jordan has a high fatality rate as a result of road accidents, according to local and international reports. The most recent figures available on accidents cover the first nine months of 2016, when 542 people were killed in about 8,000 accidents, which also resulted in more than 13,000 injuries. In the whole of 2015, there were 608 deaths in 9,712 accidents, which means that the numbers are on the rise. The estimated road traffic death rate per 100,000 population is 26.3, which is way too high, requiring prompt, but well-studied, efforts to stop the carnage.

This calls for a continuous all-out campaign that needs to end up in culture and behavioural change on the part of Jordanians and the way they use their vehicles and roads. In a meeting with chief editors of daily newspapers last year, His Majesty King Abdullah dwelt on the issue saying that Jordanians residing abroad, for example in the United Arab Emirates, are more law-abiding when it comes to traffic regulations. So what changes when they drive on their home turf? This is a question that needs to be addressed after conducting thorough studies on the part of the concerned authorities. And any studies require data, which do not seem to be easily available for media practitioners, who should be involved in any overall communication strategy aiming to curb the high number of accidents.

The reasons for this high number should be studied well before any real efforts are to be taken in the form of a well-organised sustainable national campaign that involves all possible stakeholders, starting with the traffic department, government officials and legislators and ending with schoolchildren. For this campaign to achieve maximum results, proper communication strategies should be utilised, starting with getting all concerned parties together to brainstorm and agree on the reasons and means of prevention, before moving to the implementation stage, which involves drafting and passing the right messages to all targeted audiences, old and young, through the most probable channels, with a special focus on children, keeping in mind that more than a third of fatalities are pedestrians.

Strangely enough, a focus should be given to law enforcers as it is common to see them committing traffic violations that include using cell phones while driving, not fastening seat belts and failing to signal at turns. The least we should expect from workers at law enforcement agencies is to see them setting an example for other fellow citizens to follow.

In addition, municipalities should be reminded of the importance of not only improving the conditions of roads, but also working to ensure the existence of usable sidewalks to reduce accidents involving pedestrians. In Amman, for example, it is almost impossible to find pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, and it is a shock that up until now there are no serious efforts to make such pavements available. In addition, it is really difficult for children to find safe playing areas, which exposes them to dangers on the road. But as infrastructure work and projects are costly, a good beginning would be by conducting awareness and behavioural change campaigns, which can be financed from allocations from the millions of dinars collected in the form of traffic fines. And as a reminder, the cost of a proper communication strategy would be much less than the costs of the accidents that it could help prevent. 

The benefits would greatly outweigh the costs. Any funds spent on such a strategy are destined to yield great returns in terms of saving lives and property and preventing many injuries that result in disabilities.

And the most important result that we can achieve from any such effort would be to restore our sense of safety and security on our roads as drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

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Comments

FIRST, I MUST EXPRESS MY SHOCK AND SYMPATHY TO THE FAMILIES OF THE MP AND FRIENDS. IT IS SAD ENOUGH WHEN ANY PERSON IS LOST IN AN ACCIDENT NEVER MIND WHEN A FAMILY IS LOST JUST LIKE THAT. THIS IS NO LONGER NEWS WORTHY IN JORDAN AS IT HAS BECOME ALMOST A DAILY DOSE OF PUBLIC HEALTH HAZZARD IN JORDAN. AS THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF HAS STATED, THERE ARE MANY CAUSES OF THIS EPIDEMIC AND SO LET US LOOK AT THEM IN DETAILS.
1) ALTHOUGH THE DESERT HIGHWAY IN JORDAN ARE NOT IN A PERFECT CONDOTION, WE HAVE VEHICLES IN JORDAN WITH VERY
SMALL ENGINES TO THE FACT THAT NONE OF THESE CARS HAS THE STABILITY TO WITH-STAND ANY SUDDEN TWISTS AND
TURNS. IN FACT, I CAN NEVER FORGET WHEN THE SON OF OUR BEST FAMILY FRIEND STUDYING ENGINEERING AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF JORDAN DIED ONE EARLY MORNING IN AN ACCIDENT WHILE IN WHAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE A HEAVY DUTY
MERCEDES THAT SHOULD HAVE ALL SEASON DRIVE PROTECTIONS BUT HAD NONE OR THAT NONE FAILLED TO DEPLOY. AND SO,
DESERT HIGHWAY IS JUST A
FRACTION OF THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF THIS CATASTROPHY. HOW ABOUT THE NUMBER OF CARS PER POPULATION DENSITY AND
THE JORDANIAN BASIC REQUIREMENTS AND SPECIFICATIONS OF THE IMPORTED VEHICLES. WHY IS IT THAT THE SMALLEST
CARS AND SMALLEST ENGINE CARS IMPORTED IN USA HAVE OVER FOURS YEARS WARRANTIES AND EQUIPED WITH ALL KINDS OF
SAFETY SYSTEMS BUT JORDANIANS PAY OVER TWO TIMES WHAT WE PAY FOR TOYS? ARE THE JORDANIAN MINISTRIES THAT
REGULATE THESE IMPORTS SLEEPING ON THE WHEELS?. WHY IS JORDAN STILL IMPORTING USED CARS WITH NO HISTORY
POSTED FOR THE BUYERS?. I CAN SEE PEOPLE BRINGING THEIR OWN PERSONAL CARS THAT THEY HAVE BEEN DRIVING FOR
YEARS AND PURCHASED BY THEM NEW AND USED BY THEM FOR THE LIFE SPAN BECAUSE THE HISTORY IS ONE AND ETRIVABLE.
2) THE EDITOR IS ALSO CORRECT TO NOTE THAT LOTS OF JORDANIANS DRIVE UNDER VERY STRESSFUL STATE OF MIND FOR
MANY REASONS RANGING FROM ECONOMIC HARDSHIPS TO SENSE OF HELPLESSNES AND UNFORTUNATELY HOPELESSNESS WHICH
LEADS TO DISTRACTIONS AND ACCIDENTS. THIS IS VERY TRUE BUT NOT NOTICABLE BECAUSE NO ONE THINKS ABOUT IT.
OTHER THAN THE ACCIDENTS CAUSED BY THIS LIFE OF ENDLESS STRESS, JORDANIANS ALSO USE TOBACCO AS THEIR OWN
OPIATES OF PAIN THAT GIVES THEM WORST THAN ACCIDENTS LIKE CANCERS AND OTHER CHRONIC DISEASES. HOW MANY OPEN
HEART SURGERIES ARE PERFORMED IN JORDAN ANNUALLY COMPARED WITH MANY OTHER COUNTRIES? THE RESULT MAY SCARE
YOU BUT HAVE THE SAME COMMON DENOMINATOR, TOBACCO SMOKE.
3) I WILL NOT BE SHOCKED TO SEE THAT TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS ARE MORE PREVELENT AMONG THE JORDANIAN UPPER CLASS AND
WELL KNOW FAMILIES THAN OTHERS BECAUSE TRAFFIC POLICING AND HIGHWAY PATROLLS DO NOT APPLY TO THEM. JORDAN
HAS LOTS OF LAWS IN THE BOOK BUT IT DOES ONLY APPLY TO THE POOR AND ORDINARY JORDANIANS. THIS IS THE POINT
WHERE WE ALLL MUST AGREE THAT WASTA MENTALITY TEND TO NEUTRALIZE LAWS, RULES AND RENDER PUBLIC HEALTH
USELESS ALTHOUGH IN THIS CASE THE DESERT ROAD CONDITION MAY HAVE BEEN THE PRIMARY CAUSE.
4) FINALLY. I DO AGREE WITH THE EDITOR THAT THE EPIDEMIC OF ACCIDENTS AND FATALITIES IN JORDAN IS A PUBLIC
HEALTH ISSUE AND THAT THE CAUSES ARE MULTI-FACTRORIAL THAT MUST BE ADDRESSED WITH ENOUGH RESOURCES BECAUSE
THE BENNEFITS OUTWEIGHS THE COST.

If you take Amman, as an example, the majority of drivers do not pay ANY attention to the road traffic rules when it comes to the Circles, and in the Downtown area - law enforcement is often powerless to do anything in urban areas because of the sheer density of traffic, many 'good' drivers are driven to break the law because the next guy is willing to do so, just to get into that sought after space in front, but, strangely, it works?!

Like littering, get them young.

This is such a complex issue - when a 'royal' is on the road in Amman, every rule in the book is broken, so where are the role models to good driving in Jordan?

Don't get me onto trees blocking footpaths that FORCE pedestrians (often children) to walk on a busy road!!

I wish you well on your quest, but there'll have to be much pain before any gain is achieved to sort out driving habits in Jordan?!

And while we wait, the carnage will continue.

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