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Waking Up On the Wrong Side of the Road

Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Road

Written by Romana M. Moussa

 

We all have those days when nothing goes as planned, everything is just simply pissing us off and we basically just wake up on the wrong side of the bed. But waking up on the wrong side of the road in this sense refers to something entirely different and perhaps quite upsetting. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Egypt loses an approximate of 12,000 lives every year due to traffic crashes. To paint you a picture of what driving in Egypt looks like, you need to think of roads without zebra crossings or stop lights, no traffic signs and certainly a lack of street lighting. There are tons of cars on the road that are close to reaching their breaking point with bumpers that are semi-attached and trucks carrying items stacked up to 3 meters high.

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Cars are driving in rows of 5 or 6 on roads which supposedly only provide lanes of 2. In such cases, you can effortlessly touch the other car whilst stuck in traffic. These crazy driving circumstances are unimaginable to outsiders.

Clearly, Egypt’s conundrum of traffic has become a prominent issue over the years turning it into one of the leading causes of death amongst the population. According to WHO, many traffic laws that are already in existence in Egypt are hardly enforced. Leading to adolescents to start driving at age 14 without licenses or even prior knowledge to the most common and widespread driving rules. The amount of deaths that emerge from reckless driving is atrocious. The issue does not affect merely a portion of the Egyptian population, but rather, it affects everyone living in cities like Cairo in which simply crossing a road could be life-threatening.

In the case of Saher Sahmoud; an Egyptian boy aged 16, this careless lifestyle became fatal. Sahmoud, like many other Egyptians, owns his own car, though no license. He often drove on busy streets as well as on the hazardous and poorly-maintained highways of Cairo. One day, whilst driving at a speed of approximately 224kph whilst simultaneously posting his ride on the popular Snapchat application, Sahmoud was involved in a car accident which eventually led to his death.

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The worst part of it all, is that prior to his death, Sahmoud had paid his respects to the family of one his best friends who ironically, had also died in a car accident earlier this year.

In an interview with a local; Ahmed Rashad Dewedar, questions were brought up regarding driving safety. Dewedar had recently been involved in a car accident himself on the Suez Road, which is mostly known for its poorly-maintained and dangerous nature. Dewedar’s car had collided with a reckless truck causing a serious head wound and a total loss of his vehicle. His words expressed his personal frustrations in which he claims, “Nobody fucking knows how to drive around here. I don’t think anyone even knows what they’re doing, they’re just winging it.”

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Does the issue lie with the Egyptian people or the government? Should the Egyptian government consider drastic measures for reckless driving? Or is it the people’s mind-set that needs changing?

According to Dewedar and many fellow Egyptians, buying a license rather than actually obtaining one fairly is as easy as buying tomatoes at the grocery store. He confesses of having bought his license and has never even taken an actual driving test, “Having been driving ever since my dad taught me how to when I was 13, I finally asked him to buy me a license last year. My dad agreed since he also thought my driving was good enough and lessons would just be a waste of money”. This worrying trend only further pushes Egypt’s problematic driving tendencies to its downfall.

In a report by Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (ECAPMS), an average of 14,400 car accidents in 2014 was recorded. This means that an approximate value of 39 car collisions happened every single day, killing 17 people and injuring 66. Has this scared you yet? Well, in another interview with a close relative of mine and police officer active in the district of Nasr City, Cairo, some more shocking information was revealed. “Seeing all these accidents happening and losing so many friends almost numbs your experience and feelings towards the whole thing. To be honest, I don’t even find all of this shocking anymore. This might be because I’m a police officer and I deal with this shit more than anyone else, but it’s also just because it just happens too much here”. When asked what possible measures could be taken to fight this issue, the police officer claimed, “People need to stop taking money from those rich kids who continue to break the law to impress their friends with ‘cool tricks’ like drifting”.

Drifting, driving on the wrong side of the road, driving in the opposite direction of the road, absence of seat belts, poorly-maintained roads, you name it! There are countless of factors that contribute to the atrocities that are to the Egyptian people just another mundane aspect of their every-day lives. It makes you think; are the Egyptians really that blasé when it comes to their children’s safety or are they just too hopeless for a solution? Something must be done, and I, as a fellow Egyptian sincerely hope that something will be done to change the Egyptian driving styles. Maybe a jail sentence will teach them a thing or two and prevent them from ever trying to impress their friends through car tricks again.

Although on second thought, that might be a little too drastic, and maybe I am just being a little too passionate. But if we want to decrease the deaths resulting from car accidents, we must re-educate our children. We must help each other together to rebuild our roads and make Egypt a safe place again for our drivers, but also for our pedestrians!

 

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