Sunday, February 15, 2009

Talkin' Traffic - Word On The Street, Now Word In The News

(Below): Everyone wants to turn at the same time. We just want to go straight. (If you enlarge the photo, you can make out another car, behind to the red one, also attempting a turn.)

Word on the street says the police are serious about enforcing the new traffic laws. We reviewed these laws earlier. Word has it, an Egyptian man was arrested, jailed for seven hours, released after consultation with an attorney, and an agreement to pay the stated fine. What was his crime? Driving the wrong way down a one way street! Truly, who hasn't seen someone drive the wrong way down a one way street in Cairo? Who hasn't done this?! Yes, even VB and The Boss Man have committed this atrocious crime, since, at times, it's the only way out!

(Below): Like this?

A very recent article in The Daily News Egypt states that, no, this is actually not one of those rumors streaming through the expat community, but a fact:
"This is where the popular Egyptian saying 'the law is on vacation' derives its validity and endurance. For example, how ironic it is that, on one hand, nobody has been held accountable for the death of the some 1,000 passengers who were aboard the Salam 98 ferry that drowned in the Red Sea three years ago, but, on the other, hundreds of drivers were, in the blink of an eye, arrested and sent to court for violating traffic laws?"

"CAIRO: Cairo's motorists are starting to feel the pinch of the new traffic law: 144 drivers were recently arrested for driving on the wrong side of the road, reported state-run Al-Ahram.

Cairo's Investigation Department ordered their detainment for four days and referred them to court.

Earlier this week, Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud referred 58 people to criminal prosecution for violating traffic laws, for which they can receive jail sentences.

Mahmoud emphasized the importance of taking legal action against drivers who violate traffic laws, especially driving on the wrong side of the road, driving without a license or motorcycle drivers not wearing helmets."

Saturday (Valentine's Day), at the intersection of Road 216, Zahraa, and Laselky Street, in Maadi, was harass white expats day. Anyone white, driving an S.U.V. (usually an expat with a company car) was pulled over for a check, including The Boss Man. Vehicle I.D. and driver's license required. As usual, the street was partially blocked by metal barricades, forcing drivers to merge into one lane. A man dressed in street clothes, with a walkie-talkie, would point out cars as they approached the merge, and the police would pull them over for a check. Not sure if anyone was caught breaking the law, but it was coincidental, as VB had just been discussing the licensing procedure with The Boss Man. (VB only has an International License.) What's interesting is when VB first moved to Cairo, she was told by another expat wife, not to bother with the local license. The expat wife said it was, "Bullshit! They never check."

Perhaps this contempt, or superiority complex, is too well ingrained amongst us white expats, so much so, that we flaunt it a bit too much, and we are now considered a part of the problem. Well, it's certainly part of the new law, and VB suggests you not drive without a license: "Driving without a driver’s license or without the vehicle license," comes to a fine of "100-1000" LE, "Or jail for a period not more than 6 months."

Since VB is pretty shocked about the possibility of jail time. Traffic violations are a common occurrence around here. Let's look at some of the other, possibly more dangerous traffic transgressions going on, that are totally ignored by the authorities. Some of these laws apply to more than one of the photos below.

(Laws are in bold and quoted verbatim.)
"Using the vehicles in purposes other than what is stated in the license."

(Below): See this? No it's not a riot by American hating protesters blocking the road.

(Below): It's two trucks, overloaded with men and women (obviously transported separately). Just imagine if one or both of these trucks were in an accident. As The Boss Man says, "there would be assholes splattered everywhere!" The biggest ass being the individual who came up this ingenious idea of transporting people in the back of an open truck.

"Polluting the streets by throwing leftovers, or construction wastes or any other stuff"

(Below): Fresh orange juice?

(Below): Even though every single restaurant in Cairo delivers, many retailers of appliances do not. Or, perhaps, this is the delivery method, via taxi.

(Below): Would you like Bebsi with that hole in your windshield? (No, they are not tied down.)

(Below): Let's discuss what happens when you get egged - or maybe let's not.

"Driving a vehicle where substances are flying out of it, or with inflammable or harming substances leaking out of it, or substances that could affect the competency of the road in a way that could nail the road safety or forming any kind of danger for the road users"

(Below): Garbage! Just a bit over the top.

(Below): Here the poor guy watching the trash, leans inward to say, "Dude, the garbage bags are flying all over the place!" How does VB know this? One flew under her car, was dragged, until it split open, and blew all over the street.

"Violations made by the truck drivers in terms of weight, height, width, or length that are permitted and in relation to the approved cargo"

(Below): Yes, that's right. In addition to the overloaded truck, there's a bicycle on the highway (look to the right,) and people dashing back and forth, to catch buses.

"Non-adherence to the right sight of the road as assigned for driving for both directions"

(Below): A common question drivers in Cairo ask themselves: Do we drive on the line, or between it?

"If the vehicle driver did not follow the instructions and traffic signs as well as the traffic officers instruction related to organizing the traffic flow"

(Below): Not only do public buses come way too close for comfort, they often cut you off.

"Non providing the vehicle with the reflecting triangle"

(Below): The bread delivery man is obviously not using the "slow moving vehicle" symbol triangle, as specified by law. Plus, it's questionable as to whether he can actually see where he's going, with all that bread piled in front.

"Delaying or obstructing the traffic flow in any way"

(Below): Broke down and doing work right on the road. Okay, let's face it - there's no AAA here, so what's a person to do?

"Non using of the protecting helmets while driving the motorcycles"

(Below): Obviously flaunting their disregard for the law, neither of these riders is sporting a helmet. No a hijab is not a helmet! And, on top of that, she is wearing a frilly skirt (with a leather / pleather hem?), riding side saddle.

"Driving a vehicle that produces a thick smoke or non-environmental exhaust and/or bad smell"

"Anyone who allows persons under the age of 18 to drive a vehicle in case a death, or injury or any form of damage occurs to others"

"Driving of a vehicle with a speed that is less than the minimum speed, in case it causes obstruct of traffic in the street"

(Below): One: He's going the wrong way. Two: Can this guy even control that horse? Three: He's cutting us off! Damn it! That happens all the time. We're always getting cut off, and now, by a horse!

(Below): Bicycle deliverymen usually get through traffic faster than anyone else.

(Below): VB thinks we should thank our stars that the foam goods are draped over the back windshield, and not the front. Well, VB didn't actually see the front, and it does look like the driver was just cut off by a taxi.

"Majority of the accidents happened in Ukraine (11), then in Egypt (10), Russia (9), Turkey (7) and Austria (5). Most of the injured tourists were in Egypt (192 people), China (99), and Turkey (97). Egypt also took the first place in a general death-roll – 40 dead, second is Turkey with 25 dead. After the tragedy near Israeli Eilat (24 managers from Russian tour agencies died when a bus driver lost control of the vehicle), the country takes the third place in the sad statistic."

Sirens of Failure
"There is a real need for efficient and effective emergency response services in this country. An Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) study reported that in 2006, Egypt had one of the highest death rates in car accidents in the world, with 156.3 deaths for every 100,000 vehicles. To compare, Switzerland had 8.7 deaths and the US 18.9 deaths. Egypt even beat India, which had 125.7 deaths per 100,000 vehicles. In 2007, 6,700 people died in car crashes in Egypt and more than 30,000 were injured."

"The taxi driver subculture has also developed its own traditions, separate from religion, with more mysterious and superstitious elements. Some of these may be rooted in rituals that were practiced in the drivers’ home town or village.

“When we buy a new taxi, we like to offer a sacrifice to ensure that we will always have good luck,” said Eid. “Sometimes drivers would slaughter a rabbit or small animal and spread the blood on the car with their hands.”"

"Last month, the Ministry of Interior rejected a request by several MPs to amend the two contentious articles.

Opposition MP Sabry Amer said that even if the new law makes sense technically, it cannot be implemented for economic reasons. Coupled with the current economic situation, the law would threaten the only source of income for a large number of Egyptian taxi drivers.

In addition, the article regarding trailers will mean a loss of around LE 120,000 for truck drivers, which is the approximate cost of each trailer, according to Amer."

Accidents the norm
"Deficiencies in national transport were again in the spotlight. In the governorate of Matrouh 44 people were killed and 35 injured after a truck pushed waiting traffic into the path of a speeding train. A further 13 people were killed and 24 injured when a bus and truck collided head-on south of Cairo in October. More than 60 people were killed and 10 injured when their bus plunged into a canal south of Cairo at the end of the Eid Al-Adha celebrations last month. It was the deadliest road accident in Egypt since 1987.

More than 6,000 people are killed and 26,000 injured every year on Egypt's roads according to the World Health Organisation. Yet last August's new traffic law, despite official assurances it "will be scrupulously enforced to improve the traffic situation" -- Major-General Sherif Gomaa, assistant to the interior minister -- has yet to improve the situation."

going green with cabs in cairo
"Many Egyptians are less optimistic that the rule of law will govern on the streets of Cairo:

"It won't work for sure," says Adil Abdel Rahman, 48, a driver of a Soviet-era Lada. The police, he said, would likely target only the poor for fines, allowing the rich to dodge responsibility."Everyone plays with the law here," he said."

Lastly, a not so dangerous law, that's so ambiguous, anyone with the smallest sticker on their vehicle could be charged (that would be everyone in Egypt). This could likely be applied to all those cars with "For Sale" signs stuck to the windows, as well. It's silly, to say the least.

"Sticking posters, or writing, or drawing or adding any other kind of information on the vehicle body or any of its parts or its plate"

(Below 2 Photos): Very popular sticker - The Black Eyes.

1 comment:

  1. VB, your pictures perfectly capture the Cairo driving mentality. I see it here in the UAE too. I suppose, jail is the only thing for a society who so blatently disregards traffic laws.
    I wonder if the 'blitz' will be a 7 day wonder like it is here. Or do you think they will stick to it?