Abiding by Rule of Law to Save Lives

Dec 21 , 2019
By Eden Sahle

Going out for evening walks almost daily is our family’s exercise routine. It is not uncommon for us to witness horrific and fatal car accidents on the highway around the Bole area where we walk.

It is heartbreaking and painful to witness accidents that are taking the lives of individuals who were alive and well a minute ago. It is even sadder that most such incidents occur as a result of lawlessness, both by pedestrians and drivers.

There are insufficient safeguards to protect pedestrians and poor enforcement by authorities. Public transport providers such as minibus taxis and Higer buses take the middle lane of the highway, because it allows them to drive at a much higher speed and saves time.

The problem is when passengers reach their destination and get off in the middle of the highway, they are forced to climb highway fences, which leaves them highly vulnerable to  accidents. In so many of our walks, we find senior citizens and women with children calling us for support to help them jump from the middle lane of the highway to the sidewalk lane.

Most of these pedestrians tell us the public transport assistants and drivers told them they are taking the middle lane of the highway, despite the passengers pleading with them to take the outside lane which will allow them to get off on the sidewalk.

Private-public transport service providers admit to being insistent on taking the middle lane, despite passengers wishes. The minibus taxis and Higer buses call out to passengers, shouting “bemeahle,” which translates to "through the middle highway lane" in front of the Ministry of Transport route control staff.

Drivers claim that the middle lane allows them to increase the frequency of transporting people in a short time by avoiding traffic jams. Drivers and their assistants from Bole to Megenagna admit to destroying the highway fences at night to create an opening for passengers to pass through between the fences. Anyone passing on this road can witness such openings that allow people to pass through. Damaging public property by irresponsible citizens should not be ignored.

My family and I have witnessed horrific accidents that happened to individuals who prefer to jump over highway fences instead of safely crossing bridges. It is sad to see some senior citizens fall for this unlawful and dangerous trend that is costing lives. I have spoken to people who would rather risk their lives and jump on highway fences instead of crossing bridges that are built to keep passengers safe from car accidents. This wrongful mentality is putting so much pressure on drivers who are forced to keep an eye on highway fences to make sure no one is jumping out. On countless occasions, I was inside vehicles who come close to hitting these highway fence jumpers who suddenly disrupt the flow of traffic.

The number of fatalities should alarm us all. This week, in four public hospital emergency rooms I attended for observation, more than 90pc of patients came in relation to car accidents. In Ethiopia where only a little over a million vehicles operate, 4,597 people have lost their lives just last year, while 7,400 people were severely injured. These accidents caused over 800 million Birr worth of property damage.

Even in the midst of these disasters, drivers take pride in driving intoxicated and violating traffic rules in the absence of traffic police. Public transport drivers publicly chew chat hampering their rational judgment on duty. Lives were lost and properties damaged because of this. Sadly, irresponsibility comes from all angles.

One late evening this week a military patrol vehicle passed a red light at Meskel Square almost smashing a vehicle coming from the other side. Ethiopia is a country where even the authorities themselves are not ashamed to break the law.

The rules and regulations put in plays to address traffic accidents should be implemented by all. Action-focused awareness creation, responsibility-taking, strict implementation of traffic rules and bringing behavioural change to drivers should come from everyone.

Successfully implementing road safety that everyone respects should be given attention by policymakers, traffic police, drivers and the public.

A curious takeaway should be that these accidents are caused mostly by human error. Fortunately, most road accidents are preventable. Effective road safety implementation is essential to tackle the extensive problem. This approach should work toward mindset change by improving the traffic system to create safety awareness among drivers and pedestrians as well as making the road infrastructure safer.

While having laws is undoubtedly vital, the focus should be to encourage people to make the right decisions that can help them and others. Self-control by the very same people that make use of the vehicles and streets could better prevent traffic accidents.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 21,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1025]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at edensah2000@gmail.com.

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