I drove to the beautiful city of Adama early this week. We chose to take the expressway and arrived to the city in about an hour. I remember trips to Adama in my childhood used to be long, endless and really hot. The expressway cuts down to less than 50 kilometers what used to be a 99 kilometers drive, and what difference that makes!
As we were driving on the ring road looking to enter the expressway, we saw a horrible accident where the front part of the car has been completely destroyed and passengers and the driver where still in the car. Traumatizing accidents have somewhat become a norm, and we seem to all loose our sensitivity to them as people were slowing down to see what happened and speeding a seconds later.
This was the first time I was going through Kality to join the expressway and finding it was no easy task. In the chaotic Kality-Akaki road traffic, I had to stop a few times and ask a few directions and finally found the turn I had to make to find the expressway. There were no signs or any indication that this is the way in, something so simple but very necessary. Either way we managed to find it and off we went.
Once on the expressway, I could not believe my eyes. Drivers were respecting lanes, signaling whenever they switched lanes. The left lane was almost always free as drivers used it to by pass other cars, it was mind blowing. Perhaps too much driving around Addis has lowered my expectations so much that drivers merely respecting basic traffic rules is overwhelming me. There was no police in sight, no cameras, yet everyone was respecting the rules. The trucks were sticking to the truck lane, small cars too. What happened? Could it be the frequent “drive responsibly” messages posted on screens?
This is a phenomenon needs studying, and I mean that with the utmost seriousness. For the longest time I thought that police presence is what made drivers in our city respect rules, but it seems that I am wrong. You know that even the government is giving up any chance of drivers respecting lanes when there no longer are any lanes on any of our roads. Would you blame them though? Drivers do not even take traced lanes as a suggestion, so what is the point in having them there. Whatever the element that causes us to respect basic traffic on the expressway, we should replicate it in Addis.
One of the main challenges, in Addis at least, is drunk driving. There has been a lot of breathalyzing happening in Addis these days, and I was one of the lucky ones to be pulled aside and asked to “exhale non-stop for 6 seconds”. It was somewhat of a scary experience for many reasons. It was my first time ever being breathalyzed, I did not know what the limit was, how many drinks that translates into, what the penalty was and I was too scared to ask the police who was asking me to breathe into this tube look alike thing.
I “passed” the breathalyzing test with flying colors, but I was still too scared to ask the police information. The lawyer part of me was saying that this cannot be right, crimes have to be defined and citizens need to know what these crimes are so as to not commit them.
So that inspired me to share this information with you fellow drivers. The legal drinking limit is
0.4 mm, this roughly translates into 4 beers. If you are above the legal limit you will be fined 180 birr and asked to call a sober person to come drive your car or pick you up. If you leave your car, you can collect it only 12 hours after you have been breathalyzed. Apparently, there are not specific laws for repeat offenders; the directive is still being drafted so no additional punishment yet.
Don’t drink and drive, (at least not more than 4 beers)