CAIRO: The implementation of a government decision regarding traffic regulations and trucking has been postponed due to the incompletion of the law’s execution, Al-Ahram reported Friday.
Trailers and heavy trucks would have been banned from driving inside cities from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. starting Saturday, according to a Cabinet decision from Nov. 5 following a deadly bus accident in Beheira in which 18 students burnt to death after a collision with a truck carrying petroleum products.
However, the exact locations for the ban were not defined, the media reported truck drivers were unhappy with the decision and that the financial consequences for factories and companies that depend on trucking would reflect in raised consumer prices.
Trucks traffic is a 24/7 activity
The tragic Beheira accident was the last straw after a recent series of deadly road accidents. Three days earlier, 10 female students from the University of Sohag were killed after their bus drove into a canal trying to avoid a speeding truck.
The two accidents stirred public anger due to their high death tolls and the ages of the victims, but are far from being isolated incidents, as deadly traffic accidents occur on a daily basis, and many of them involve trailer trucks.
“You killed my best friend. Her death will forever be on your hands” were the words that came in an open letter published by Scoop Empire Aug. 1. They were said to be written by a young woman mourning her best friend. That letter was followed by another one on May 10 containing the words “I hate you” addressed to the General Authority for Roads, Bridges and Land Transport (GARBLT).
“Drivers’ mistakes contribute to 70 percent of the accidents, while road defects only represent a percent of the problem after vehicle incompetence and weather conditions,” Maj. Ahmed Assem, media coordinator of the Traffic Department at the Interior Ministry, stated on Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath Nov. 10.
The government’s immediate response was to amend the traffic law to increase penalties on driver violations. The new penalties were particularly harsh for drivers under the influence of drugs, who will now face minimum yearlong prison sentences, and two years in prison and a fine of 10,000 EGP ($1,400) if involved in a traffic accident. If death results from the accident, the driver will face between three to seven years in jail and a doubling of the previous fine.
In the past week, traffic forces intensified their presence in the streets. In an interview with Al-Shorouq Nov. 11, Maj. Gen. Hamdy el-Hadidi, head of the Cairo Traffic Department at the Ministry of Interior, said that 113 intoxicated drivers were arrested between September and November in Cairo.
When asked about the ministry’s action regarding trucks, Hadidi said that in August, the decision to forbid truck traffic during the day went into effect on the roads of Salah Salem, Heliopolis and downtown Cairo.
However, despite the government’s claims of a ban, it is still common to see fatal accidents involving trucks on a daily basis; sometimes as many as two or three in the same day on the same road. This is especially true for Cairo’s Ring Road, a major thoroughfare encircling Cairo and its suburbs, and a main truck route.
It remains unclear if the government’s ban will include the Ring Road, which is currently designated for trucks.
Officials admitted that part of the problem is unfit roads, but put the bigger blame on the human factor. This has been repeatedly claimed in press statements by executive representatives of the State, including Luxor Governor Tarek Saad el-Din on Nov. 12, and Essam el-Kashef, the head of the Egyptian Society for Road Safety, on Nov. 5.
Maj. Gen. Saad al-Geuoshy, head of GARBLT, said the same thing to Mehwar TV Oct. 18 following the death of 27 people and the injury of 18 others on Oct. 13 in a major Aswan traffic accident.
“Let’s face it; we all know that discipline has not returned yet to Egyptian streets or traffic; however, the moment discipline returns to drivers, accidents will decrease by half,” Geuoshy told The Cairo Post in May, adding that the number of the accidents increased as “chaos increased.”
But despite government proposals to curb traffic accidents, road fatalities continue unabated.
In the past nine months, 339 people have died in reported road accidents, and 775 were injured in 701 separate accidents in Cairo alone, Hadidi told Al-Shorouq.
Also, in June the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) said that 50 percent of those who died in car accidents in 2013 were youth.
Additional reporting by Sara Osama Shoureap.