Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1310, (1 - 7 September 2016)
Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Issue 1310, (1 - 7 September 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Will horrific car crash make a difference?

The recent killing of a young girl on Cairo’s Ring Road has sparked demands to improve Egypt’s traffic laws, reports Nesma Nowar

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Egyptians woke up last week to a story of a grieving mother who lost her child in a dramatic accident on Cairo’s Ring Road.

“I lost my daughter because of a heavy vehicle driver who ran me over on the Ring Road and a truck driver who parked horizontally.

“I’m patient for the loss of my daughter, but if you truly love me, we have to take a stand. Traffic laws have to be changed and that will not happen without your help,” posted the mother, Rabab Al-Melegui, on Facebook.

Al-Melegui decided not to remain silent over the chaos and negligence prevalent in Cairo’s roads and called upon Egyptians to share and narrate her story to take a stand and to prevent further tragedies.

Al-Melegui’s post went viral on Egyptian social media and has been shared over 40,000 times on Facebook, prompting people to share their tragic stories of the lives they lost on Egypt’s lawless roads. Many social media users have posted messages in support of Al-Melegui with hashtags calling for preventing trucks, trailers and any transfer of goods on the road at peak hours, a specific time schedule for heavy trailers and trucks, and a medical check-up for truck drivers.

The accident happened on Cairo’s Ring Road, notorious for its frequent accidents, earlier in August. Al-Melegui was on her way home with her two daughters and driver when they came upon a lorry parked horizontally. In an attempt to avoid it, her driver slowed down only to be hit by another speeding truck coming from behind.

After the crash, Al-Melegui’s daughter was still alive but in an attempt to escape, the truck driver hit them again, pushing the car into the parked lorry, leading to the death of one of her daughters while leaving her and her other daughter in critical condition. The truck driver was reportedly captured 20 minutes later on the Cairo-Sokhna road. 

Al-Melegui took her case to court, with the first hearing due on 4 September.

More and more Egyptians are being killed every year as a result of road traffic accidents, and the country now loses about 12,000 lives due to such accidents every year.

As a result, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has ranked Egypt among the countries with the highest morbidity rates in the world in its Global Status Report on Road Safety which assessed road safety conditions in 178 countries.

Egypt has a road traffic fatality rate of 42 deaths per 100,000 people, or 1.8 per cent of all deaths from all causes in the country, according to the WHO.

According to a recent report by the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), road accidents in Egypt resulted in the death or injury of 25,500 people in 2015. The number of accidents in 2015 totaled 14,500, causing 6,203 fatalities, 15,847 severe injuries and 3,479 light injuries.

The report blamed most of the accidents on human error (64%), followed by vehicle conditions (21.9%). It has estimated that road accidents in 2015 cost LE30.2 billion in lost output, in addition to LE1.8 billion paid by insurance companies. The report also estimated that in 2020 road accidents will cost LE31 billion in lost output, with a projected 6,211 fatalities and 22,255 injuries.

Despite the figures, road safety has been neglected by the government for many years, and the number of fatalities and injuries on Egypt’s roads continues to rise.

Though many Egyptians have shared Al-Melegui’s story and demanded the government to act on road safety negligence, it might not be enough to force the government to take action.

Ebtehal Shawki, road safety expert, said that such campaigns are not sustainable and that they will fade away after three or four months. “Like many incidents before, people live in the heat of the moment but after a while they forget what happened,” Shawki told Al-Ahram Weekly.

She said that for these efforts to be sustainable, the cause should not pertain to one incident or person, but to be the community’s problem. She said people should look around and see what is lacking in the road safety system and then keep pressuring to improve it.

Ahmed Shelbaya, co-founder of the NGO NADA Foundation for Safer Egyptian Roads, agrees, saying people need to continue putting pressure on the government to act on road safety. He said Egyptians have to be empowered to do so by knowing and clinging to their rights in having safe roads.

He stated that solving the problem needs mainly and primarily state intervention, and for the government to act on the issue, it must have the political will which will not happen unless it feels the heat and pressure from the community.

“We have to reclaim back our rights for safe walking, safe road standards and safe commuting,” Shelbaya told the Weekly. “We need to understand these rights so that we continue fighting for them. This continuous fight is what will push the government to find the political will.”

Road safety is a complex issue that involves many angles that need to be addressed. Shelbaya and Shawki said the problem is that Egypt does not have a single agency dedicated to road safety. Responsibility for road safety in Egypt is distributed among several government ministers and agencies which make it difficult to solve the problem or hold one entity accountable.

For this reason, Shelbaya said that establishing one entity empowered to be responsible for the whole road safety system and which can be held accountable is crucial to addressing the problem and decreasing road traffic fatalities.

That is why the state should declare road safety a national priority so that the government can take the appropriate steps to address it, Shelbaya said.

“Road traffic fatalities are the number one killer of Egyptian youths. How can this not be considered a threat to national security?” Shelbaya asked.

The issue of road safety has long taken a back seat in Egypt, and little appropriate action has been taken to prevent further deaths. The situation worsened after the 2011 revolution when political and economic issues took the passenger seat, Shawki said.

Road accidents are a global public health problem that claims the lives of about 1.3 million people each year. The figure could rise to 1.9 million by 2020 if no action is taken.

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