Thinking what subject to write about in this edition of the journal, I turned on the TV and seeing the news I murmured “not again”. The news went on as “9 people were killed and 1 injured in an accident that involved a minibus, which changed lanes due to a puncture, and a car. A long queue of cars accumulated for miles on the road, which was blocked due to the accident. An investigation has started for the accident”. It is now has become a routine to listen to such news; with this mood I decided to write about the traffic issue.
The word “terror” is defined as “a method of war in which randomly selected or symbolic victims are selected as means of violence” in a book named “Disasters: Terrorism” by the American author Ann Weil. In fact this concept is not rally identified with traffic in the literature. However sometimes these accidents hurt us so much that the titles on the news go as traffic terror. I also used this expression because the traffic issue, sometimes randomly and sometimes consciously, selects thousands of victims each year. Many those who set on traffic turn the roads into a battlefield. Thus if traffic is terror, than it would not be exaggerated to name those who do not respect others lives or properties in the traffic as terrorists.
Having a look at the accident statistics in Turkey one could see how big the problem is. Current policies have not ended this traffic terror so far. According to the data by Department of Traffic Services of the General Directorate of Security, traffic accidents in Turkey have increased by 279 % between 2002-2011, costing lives of 43,140 people, and much more injured. The financial losses are out of consideration.
According to the data by Turkish Statistics Institution; in years 2002, some 4093 people have been killed in 440,000 accidents. In year 2011 the number of accidents has increased to 1.230,000 killing 3835 people. The number of injured people has increased from 116,000 to 238,000 during this period.
Parallel to the population increase each year thousands of new cars are included in the traffic. Relevant institutions indicate that there has been some 5 % decrease in accidents in terms of proportion. However I do not consider this as a success. There should not be such high number of accidents in a country, in which the transportation infrastructure is completed and inspection mechanisms have been established. It is a pity to have so many losses of lives and properties.
A joint study conducted by Turkish Statistics Institution and General Directorate of Security shows the background of this horrible truth. This study shows that of all the 141.000 drivers involved in accidents, 124,000 of them have got driving licenses; in other words 16,000 drivers were caught without license. This is a very tragic situation. In addition this number only shows those involved in accidents; considering the whole traffic, one could easily say there are thousands of traffic terrorists are on the roads each day.
Two main reasons of traffic accidents are driving extremely fast and not obeying the right of way. These mistakes sometimes leave permanent marks on peoples’ lives. The question here is how are we going to solve this problem?
Of course with decisiveness, education, audit and by changing our habits. The circular on “Highway Traffic Safety Strategy” announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan early August includes many new regulations on this issue. This plan sets the guidelines until 2015 and activated the guidelines. The circular includes many items on solution of this problem such as;
• Providing traffic and first aid education to students, teachers, parents and school bus drivers in the primary and secondary schools through campaigns, projects, classes, club activities, and awareness raising among these groups,
• Reaching to EU standards in theoretical and practical lessons in Driving License Courses by making necessary legislative changes related with these courses,
• Educating about 750,000 people on first aid,
• Increasing the education quality on driver and pedestrian education; increase the educated number of people from 1.2 million annually by 50 percent,
• Each year educating about 35 % of the traffic policemen on the subjects of inspection of traffic, accident analysis, accident investigation and refereeing, checking the speedometer, use of alcoholmeter, radar, and advanced driving techniques,
• Providing in-service training to the military (gendarmerie) traffic staff,
• Providing traffic safety education to those under compulsory military service,
• Increasing the road checks for speed, alcohol and radar,
• Making use of winter tires compulsory according to weather conditions and increasing the controls,
• Increasing checks to avoid use of mobile phones while driving by 30 percent,
• Decreasing the number of cars, which do not pass the initial inspection by at least 38 % until the year 2015.
Our expectation as a society is the activation of such measures and minimizing the losses.
The fatal accidents also affect our image abroad adversely and result with categorizing us among third world countries. I have many times witnessed how much my guests coming from developed countries like England, Germany or Austria are worried when in traffic. They find it odd following the front car too closely, passing to close to other cars; do not show respect to pedestrians and not use safety belts most of the time. What is normal for us is totally abnormal to them. Our habits in traffic increase accident risks and the rest is known by all. We then read the newspapers or watch the TV spots with sorrow and sometimes fury.
It is clear that inspection and punishing is not enough to solve this problem. It is easy to identify the problem. The difficult part for us is to implement the solution. If we manage implementation we can turn the statistics upside down and stop the huge trouble of traffic terror all together.