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It has been a while since traffic accidents became a frequent occurrence in Addis Ababa that many of us are unmoved even by horrific stories of accidents. Any attempt of putting causes of the accidents in perspective point at lack of driving ethics and respect for traffic rules. What is the problem really? Aren’t the rules strict enough? Aren’t offenders given stiff penalties? Or is it because we are genetically predisposed to drive recklessly? With the way things are, I would like to say the most probable answer is the last one. Unfortunately, we can’t just blame our problems on our genetic make-up.
Some alluded the horrible accidents on vehicles that are malfunctioning or that have factory glitches. One specific vehicle that has been in the spotlight for mass killing has been Sinotruck. Sinotruck is a vehicle with a blockbuster record for mass killing and atrocious accidents. It looks as if this vehicle has been on a killing spree on our roads. Here in Addis Ababa, we often hear of these trucks causing accidents frequently in the outskirts of the city. Now the truck is tearing the heart of the city apart.
But whom should we really blame for causing all of those accidents, the truck or the person behind the wheels? Sure, one cannot say accidents can be avoided completely, and situations could get out of hand. But, the capability of drivers, in majority of the cases, means the difference between life and death.
With that in mind, looking into the way driver’s licenses are issued is essential. To be able to drive big trucks like the Sinotruck, I would imagine one needs to have years of experience driving different-sized vehicles; from small automobiles to midsized trucks and heavy duty vehicles. But looking at how things are here, experience might be the least important requirement for those that are interested in getting their Grade 5 drivers’ license.
I understand from the way things are done here, anybody can get a Grade 5 drivers license as long as they pass the theoretical and practical examinations; no previous experience is asked of these people!
Surely, going through a few weeks of classes and practicing driving in a fenced off area that simulates the real activity on roads does not equal experience.
The reason experience is a requirement in almost all hires is because experience means careful handling, it means handling odd events well, and it means foreseeing things before they happen.
In the absence of experience, one is basically prone to puerile judgments that could have serious consequences. Immature judgments in driving land us on loss of life and property damage.
I am dictating all this to state that testing the capabilities of drivers, especially those operating heavy vehicles is something that needs to be taken seriously. This could be a primary yet elementary step to addressing the issue and curbing, or at least minimizing, the huge number of accidents that are claiming many lives.
Having stricter penalties for offenders also needs to be stepped up. Oh! Indeed there was a law that posits such stricter punishment had it not been for its fast disappearance even from our memory. Addis Ababa has become a death trap, especially at night. This is because people try to operate a vehicle when they are not even in a shape to stagger home.
Drunk driving has become a craze of many motorists that they don’t think twice when they settle behind the wheel. When I talk about drunk driving, I’m not even talking about the young men and women. I am talking specifically about grown up men and women who should know better.
We do not have traffic police monitoring the roads at night. Why? I’m not sure what the answer would be. Maybe they are also, out in the bars celebrating life with a few drinks, not sure. But, we need to get somebody to monitor the streets, offenders need to be punished. And who monitors the monitor?
We need to understand that driving while under the influence of alcohol and other brain function affecting substances is both deadly and costly. We need to push the reset button on the knowledge we have about driving and learn things anew. Like I said in the beginning, most accidents occur due to drivers’ fault. Driving needs discipline, drivers need to respect and lookout for each other on the road. We also need to understand experience saves lives. If we are able to understand these things and implement them, there is no reason why we cannot achieve less accident records and safer roads.