Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1211, (28 August - 3 September 2014)
Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Issue 1211, (28 August - 3 September 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Hell on the highway

A horrific road accident near Sharm El-Sheikh this week has drawn attention to the need for better safety on Egypt’s roads, reports Ahmed Kotb

Highway accidents
Highway accidents
Al-Ahram Weekly

A collision between two tour buses near Sharm El-Sheikh last Friday left 33 dead and 44 injured, including one Ukrainian national and Saudi and Yemeni tourists, in one of the worst road accidents to happen in recent years.

The buses were coming from opposite directions when, according to official reports, one of the drivers fell asleep, causing his bus to collide with the other about 50 km from the popular Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.

Ambulances immediately rushed to the site to transport the injured to hospital.

Saad Al-Gioushi, head of the General Authority for Roads, Bridges and Land Transportation, said during a television interview that after examining the accident scene it was evident that the road was safe and that it had been the actions of one of the drivers that had led to the collision.

But the high number of people killed and injured in the accident has made the public question once again the increasing number of road crashes in Egypt.

A report published by the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) states that about 13,000 people were killed and 40,000 injured last year in road accidents in the country, with around 18 lives being claimed daily on Egyptian roads, most of them young people.

The report said that human error and speeding were to blame for the majority of accidents, along with uncontrolled traffic and poorly maintained roads. Road accidents cost the country’s economy about LE20 billion annually.

Trucks are the primary cause of accidents on highways, being involved in over 40 per cent of all vehicle accidents.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road accidents are one of the main causes of death in Egypt, with a road traffic fatality rate of 42 deaths per 100,000 of population. The accidents are often due to poor enforcement of speed restrictions, the failure to wear seatbelts or crash helmets and driving under the influence of alcohol.

According to Magdy Salah Al-Din, a professor of road engineering at Cairo University, many accidents are caused by “poorly designed and maintained roads.” Maintenance budgets need to be increased, he said, “especially since some roads should not have cars running on them.”

The General Authority for Roads, Bridges and Land Transportation (GARBLT) carries out regular maintenance every five years to repair any damage caused by accidents.

Salah Al-Din said that the lack of proper punishment for violators is another main reason behind the sometimes chaotic driving seen on Egyptian roads.

The government has recently started implementing new and stricter traffic laws that include tougher punishments and fines, but Salah Al-Din said these were still often poorly enforced.

Soliman Saleh, a professor of sociology at Cairo University, told the Weekly that law enforcement should be stricter in order to make drivers think harder before breaking the speed limit or committing other violations.

“More police patrols and speed cameras would be good ways of easing the problem,” he said.

Saleh also said that children should be taught the importance of following traffic regulations when at home and at school, making it easier for them to follow the rules when they become adults.

While some have pointed to the possible effect of Friday’s accident on tourism, Ezzat Abdel-Ghaffar, an expert at Travco Group, said such an accident could happen anywhere and not just in Egypt.

Al-Gioushi said that plans were under way to boost security on roads across the country’s governorates, with priority being given to roads leading to tourist areas in North and South Sinai.

Egypt is one of ten countries included in the WHO’s Road Safety in 10 Countries project, which is being conducted over five years with Egyptian representatives from the ministries of the interior, education, and health, as well as from academia, trauma care services and non-governmental organisations.

The project aims to encourage respect for speed limits and the wearing of seatbelts, among other activities.

In 2012, the Egyptian Tourism Federation (ETF) established the Egyptian Road Safety Training Centre (RSTC), which aims to train drivers to deal better with everyday and potentially dangerous situations.

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