The number of road accidents in Egypt increases day by day, and the government is unable to find any real solutions for the problem. Furthermore, a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) puts Egypt in the top 10 countries globally for the number of fatal road accidents.
The report reveals that 25,500 people were killed or injured as a result of car accidents in Egypt in the past year, with financial losses amounting to about LE30 billion.
Traffic experts say that most road accidents in Egypt are caused by trucks and the poor condition of roads. Another major contributor is Egyptians’ disregard for traffic rules and regulations.
General Magdy al-Shahed, a traffic expert, says that the minister of irrigation in 2000 decreed that trucks could exceed the maximum weight they were allowed to carry by paying money to the General Authority of Roads and Bridges. This decree contributed to an increase in road accidents, said Shahed.
“Accidents caused by trucks make up about 5 percent of all road accidents in Egypt, yet they are responsible for 80 percent of the deaths. It is because of this that Egypt is so high up on the list of fatal road accidents worldwide,” Shahed told Al Masry Al Youm.
He explained that Egypt is not among the worst countries in terms of the highest number of road accidents, but rather the most fatalities resulting from these accidents. He points out the contrast between Egypt and the UAE, where two months ago there was a road accident that involved 200 cars but resulting in only one injury. By contrast, he said, in Egypt one accident between a truck and bus on the Wahat Road resulted in 27 deaths.
Shahed is calling for a change in item 80 of the Traffic Law, that allows for reconciliation between the two parties involved in any accident outside of the law. He asks how two parties can reconcile when one of them (often a truck driver) so blatantly breaks the law and endangers other people on the road.
“There need to be stronger legal reprimands so that people would think twice before endangering the lives of others so easily. The same item in the law makes the owner of the truck responsible for the accident and not the driver, when it is usually the driver who is responsible for the damage caused," he tells Al-Masry Al-Youm.
"Any traffic violations committed and any consequential fines are also recorded on the car’s registration record, while everywhere else in the world, they punish the driver and not the vehicle,” he says.
General Yousri Serag al-Deen al-Rouby, an academic and international traffic expert, reveals that Egypt is actually ranked number one in the world when it comes to fatal road accidents, competing for the number-one spot with Saudi Arabia. Egypt is also the only country in the world that grants driving licenses without applicants passing a driving-school program first.
Rouby says, “The annual death toll from road accidents in Egypt is between 25,000 and 27,000, as well as between 70,000 and 80,000 recorded injuries, with financial losses that amount to betwen LE30 billion and LE35 billion annually.
"There are several solutions for this problem from a scientific standpoint, the most important of which is education, road planning and amendments made to traffic law. We should rely on technology also, to help fix the issue. Drivers should be trained to avoid road accidents, and reprimands should be made more serious. With more focus on the issue, solutions could be outlined better," he says.
Meanwhile, General Alaa Abd al-Megeed, assistant director of the General Directorate of Transport and Communications Police, says there are three main reasons for the high number of traffic accidents in Egypt: the poor driving; the bad state of roads; and the bad state of vehicles.
"We should raise awareness about the various aspects of the phenomenon, and driving schools should be developed and enrollment in them made compulsory before anyone else is allowed to be issued a license,” Megeed says.
The state gains nothing from the high rate of road accidents, says the general, and the accidents authority at the Interior Ministry is fully committed to finding a solution to the problem.