These days I hear a lot about how the number of car accidents in Ethiopia is increasing and is becoming one of the leading causes of death in the country. Honestly speaking, it does not surprise me much. There are no weeks in a row that I do not see wrecked cars on the roads of Addis as I go by my everyday life. Some of the car wreckages that you see on the roads make you wonder really hard how the driver might have been driving the car to end up in such a fatal accident. What I feel sorry about are the innocent people who happened to be near the reckless driver at the moment of the accident and ended up being a victim of his or her reckless driving behavior.
Yes, I believe that reckless driving behavior is at the root of the spike in car accidents in this country. And I believe this is the reason why half of the driving license lessons are on driving behavior. But where does this reckless behavior come from? You could cite hundreds of reasons for that. In my opinion, us human beings can exhibit animal like behaviors if it was not for all the written and unwritten laws that control how we behave in a society. I am no legal expert but I can say with confidence that, for both types for laws to take effect, there should be in place responsible law enforcing parties and functional law enforcing mechanisms. In the absence of law enforcement, chaos prevails. In the case of car accidents, I believe that the root cause for the chaos we are increasingly witnessing is the absence of responsible law enforcers.
Take for instance car seat belts. I remember, if I am not mistaken some 15 or 20 years back, that people went about driving their cars without bothering to attaching their seat belts. And have you seen a single driver in Addis for instance driving without seat belts today? I personally have not seen any. And why is that? Well, simply because traffic polices are strict when it comes to enforcing the laws on seat belts. And in another example, do you know anyone who drives a car without third party insurance? I bet the answer is no.
So why aren’t we seeing more traffic officers who enforce laws on speed limits, which by the way, is the leading cause for car accidents in this country? Some months ago, we were seeing here and there some attempts at controlling drunk driving. But I can almost swear that the fatal car wreckages we are seeing on the roads every other morning are caused by drunk driving. So, as long as laws on proper driving are not fully and responsibly enforced, we can keep on wishing for fatal car accidents to stop!
Speaking of drunk driving, I very much like the proposal made by the health minister to enact a law that forbids the advertisement of alcohol drinks on TV and Radio channels, and also alcohol ads that promise lottery wins. But what I really hope for is that these laws will not remain on paper, and that there will be responsible actors who will assure enforcement with the proper enforcing mechanisms!