On principle I try to avoid it but a few days ago, coming from a few days work out of town, I entered the city in the dark. I try to avoid this as driving in the dark on the roads out of town is simply too dangerous. There are too many other vehicles with bad or no lights, visibility is poor and there are many unnoticed obstacles,including stationary/broken down trucks, etc. As a matter of fact, the reason I came late was because of earlier traffic jams caused by a serious car accident. How some drivers manage to overturn their truck and/or trailer in a residential area along the road remains a mystery to me, but it happens quite often. In any case, I was somewhat relieved, when I approached the Ring Road at Kaliti. Almost home, I thought, but the dangers described above continued to present themselves, for the next 5km the streetlights along the Ring Road did not work.With the high beams of on-coming vehicles in my eyes, it was difficult if not impossible to see the wall separating the lanes. There are no reflectors, not on the wall, not on the road and not at the side of the road. A little further down the road there was a collision between a taxi and a personal car, while in between, pedestrians from all walks of life jump over the separation wall instead of using the fly-over to cross the road. Swept against the same wall are heaps of sand and dust waiting to be collected by a company which is contracted to clean the highway. Some of the heaps are so big that they pose a danger to any vehicle driving closer to the wall.
Meanwhile we see traffic police all over the city, at certain places and at certain times that is. Serious. It is interesting to observe them. With ticket book in hand, they signal drivers to pull over and in some cases take the number plate off the much valued car, leaving the owner behind looking puzzled and frustrated. Finding faults in traffic is not particularly difficult as the vast majority of us continuously violate the most basic traffic rules and regulations, including myself. This does not only apply to drivers of cars but to anybody on the roads and in the streets including pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, truck drivers, bus drivers and last but not least our notorious minibus drivers. I guess if we all followed the rules many of the traffic problems and jams that we face today would be reduced by half or more; but we don’t, so we have to live with the consequences. It is also interesting to observe that while the traffic police officers step up their control activities, many drivers become confused and start even making more mistakes as if a kind of panic gets hold of them. In their efforts not to get caught, some begin using their indicators constantly, not necessarily at the right moment or in the right direction. What puzzles me though is why our behaviour in traffic is as bad as it is! Rules are not followed, seat belts are used only by the driver, we still see children resting their face on the dashboard, we don’t give way, we don’t stop for pedestrians at the zebra crossings, we don’t observe speed limits, we don’t indicate where we are going, we honk our horn for others to get out of the way and we continue to use our cell phones hands on instead of installing a hands free set. Pedestrians are not free of fault either. They don’t look out when crossing the road, they walk in the middle of the road, they stroll across the road with their back to the traffic instead of taking a straight line, they jump the ring road and children play football on the tarmac. I could go on but I guess I’ve made my point. But why is this so?
I guess that people are not aware in the first place. I cannot imagine that proper and effective driving instruction and examinations allow the common behaviours we observe everyday. Let alone drivers’ instruction, I am not aware of any traffic lessons in schools for children to learn how to behave in traffic, and to be aware of the dangers. If this is indeed the case I strongly appeal for traffic lessons to be included in the primary school curriculum and to have short daily traffic awareness raising programs on TV and radio.
Secondly, the capacity of traffic police to facilitate and control traffic is still insufficient. Hence, violators are normally caught only at crossroads and traffic lights, and when caught they are not always punished. If control is not exercised consistently, people by nature will not change their behaviour.
Finally and more interestingly or in fact worryingly, is that there seems to be little respect for authority, which includes the traffic rules and the traffic police (we honk to demonstrate our displeasure and impatience as the officer allows traffic from the other side to cross the junction). We also do not demonstrate much respect for other road users as we cut in, don’t give way, overtake waiting traffic just to block cars coming from the opposite direction and refuse to stop for pedestrians at the zebra crossing. I may be mistaken but this was different a number of years ago. I guess the rapid growth in city traffic is a factor here, and we are not capable of adjusting our attitude at the same pace.
As mentioned previously in this column, I guess we live here in a so called particularistic society, meaning that the particular situation of an individual must be treated as such and not according to general rule. In other words, I may be of the opinion that it is good that there are traffic rules but they do not apply to me at this moment as I am in a particular hurry to attend something important somewhere else.
Now what has all this to do with doing business? Consider and draw a few parallels. No proper training for example, or no awareness of dangers, too little capacity, no consistent control systems, no proper infrastructure, no regular maintenance, no measures to motivate staff, no mutual respect, no role models. Imagine the chaos. Think again.