For our own sake
This week was a sad one as it served as a reminder of a sad reality in our country. Statistics have it that there are over 800 000 cars in Ethiopia. According to the Road Transport Authority, the number of cars in Ethiopia in 2016 was 708,410, however, it has reached 831,265 in 2017. This number is definitely not high in light of the population number in the country. However, the numbers show that 62 percent of the over 830 000 cars are found in the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa. This certainly changes things as although Addis Ababa is the most populous city in the country, it does not account for a large number of the population.
This means that as of 2017, there are over 515 000 cars in Addis Ababa. I am sure these numbers have increased in the past 2 years and it certainly feels like it whenever it is rush hour or near holidays. Roads are jam packed and one can remain stuck in traffic for over an hour in a route that would have normally taken no more than 15 minutes. Often times, it feels like that the traffic is bad not simply because there is a large number of cars but because there is really bad driving. Drivers have no respect for the concept of lanes, it is not uncommon to find 5 lines in a road that was clearly designed and built for 3 lanes. And for some reason, none of us think that the reason the traffic is that much worse has anything to do with our respect for the driving laws.
About 3 weeks ago, my friends and I were invited to a dinner party at a friend’s house where we ate well, laughed a lot and enjoyed each other’s company. Little did we know that this dinner would be the last time we would see one of friends alive. Less than 2 weeks from that dinner, after a night out in bole, he and his friend were struck and killed on site by a car while crossing the street. There is no information about the status of the driver
According to the Transport Authority, there were over 41 000 car accidents in the fiscal year 2017/2018. There were 20 647 people affected by these accidents, from minor injuries to fatalities. A quarter of those affected, i.e. 5118 died from the accidents. There are a few elements that have contributed to this and among them are flawed driving license issuance system and lax enforcement of road safety. I would argue that if we were to spend more effort on enforcing existing traffic laws, this problem would considerably be reduced. By this enforcement, I am referring to both traffic laws for cars, motorcycles and pedestrians.
We should start with re-examining the court systems when it comes to the handling of the drivers, drunk or not, who somehow manage to get back on the streets a short while after the accidents. I will not be the first to say it, but there are clear corrupt practices in that space that are having the opposite effect of what they are supposed to do. If one can get away with murder, literally, why would one fear the act?
When I sit and think about the number of people I know who have been involved or affected in car accidents one way or another, it is scary. I can easily name friends who have lost parents, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, children in car accidents and it is scary. It is scary that this is something we, all of us, can do something about yet, it continues as though it was a plague with no remedies. I am not sure what it will take to real change making action that goes beyond lip service.