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Not just on the road

May 16,2019 - Last updated at May 16,2019

For years, one of my favourite subjects in this column has been traffic. Not just because transportation is quite impactful on our daily lives, we inhabitants of the urban centres, but because I take it as an indicator of the state of our culture.

What happens on the road, positively or negatively, is a metaphor of who we are. Quite often, our public conduct is a mirror of ourselves.

There are a lot of disciplined, law-abiding and courteous motorists on our roads.

One would even venture to say that the vast majority of people, motorists as well as passengers and pedestrians, in our society are responsible, civil individuals.

A minority, however, are not.

Those belonging to this latter category are incredibly selfish, obnoxious and dangerous.

No matter how one interprets their reckless road behaviour, from motive to consequence, they are lawbreakers.

The other day I was driving on the airport highway.

Generally, the drive is quite pleasant as the condition of the road from the Seventh Circle to Queen Alia International Airport is conducive to a pleasurable drive: The three-lane highway is spacious, well kept and scenic. And it is not crowded.

The minority few, referred to above, were at it as always: zigzagging, speeding, driving too close behind you, texting while motoring, passing or stopping without signalling, etc.

Particularly obnoxious, and reckless and dangerous, that day were a huge tanker and a trailer-truck. The former was fully loaded with water, as one can easily tell from the water emitting from a small opening at the top, and the second with large brick piles.

Not only were they clearly over-speeding, but they were also competing with smaller vehicles for the fast left lane.

The only thought that comes to one's mind while observing such irresponsibility is: how dare they!

A month earlier, I was on my way with a friend from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. What struck me most about the extremely pleasant drive was seeing large vehicles confined to the right lane, motoring in a highly disciplined manner. When I brought the matter to the attention of my friend who works and lives there, he said: “Large vehicles cannot use except the right lane, and while the maximum speed limit for smaller cars is 120 for them it is 80. And they are very strict about the law here.”

“Wow!” I uttered.

“It is the law, my friend,” he added.

What a sight that was.

Cannot this be done here?

It is after all, law enforcement, above and beyond everything else, of course after awareness campaigns and education have failed in the case of the minority spoken of.

The sad, tragic thing about the matter is that this irresponsible, reckless, dangerous minority has been with us for a long time. As far as I can remember from personal experience, and I remember this distinctly, it has been with us for exactly 40 years, since the first feature story about traffic I wrote for The Jordan Times in 1979.

Since then, and until now, we have not succeeded in confining large vehicles to the right lane and compelling them to abide by the speed limit.

What an indicator about our performance and the state of our advancement!

What is equally troubling, in fact more troubling, is the fact, as I prefaced above, that motoring is a metaphor of our performance in nearly all other spheres.

In other words, what happens on our roads is what happens in all of our institutions, public and private, but especially the public ones.

This reckless, irresponsible minority is wreaking the same kind of havoc there: disturbing our peace, crippling our performance, subverting our efforts to move forward and is bringing our institutions and society down.

Since the eruption of the so-called Arab Spring in early 2011, this subversive minority has, as a matter of fact, become more aggressive, more blackmailing and more negatively impactful.

In the various sectors and the various levels, we have been as ineffective in compelling them to obey law and order, as we have been ineffective in compelling the obnoxious tankers and trucks to stick to the right lane.

What happens on the roads does not stay on the roads; it transfers and translates into similar conduct within our institutions across all sectors.

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