In the past few months, there has been a campaign, if not a movement, to combat speeding cars and traffic accidents. From the Hikmet-related campaigns of mid-January, to the nation-wide campaign following the Jerash-road bus crash, to the introduction of tough traffic laws and their subsequent legislative rejection a few weeks later. Lately, weâ€™ve seen posters all over Amman that are reminiscent of scare-tactics used on cigarette packs. And every time a new tragic accident happens, it brings the issue front and center all over again. Essentially, this has become a very frequent thing. Unfortunately.
However, in the process of telling people to â€œslow downâ€, drivers have become demonized. Even in the casual conversations people have; when a new accident happens and someone says â€œdid you hear aboutâ€¦?â€ the conversation usually ends with someone calling the driver a speeding jackass at worst or an irresponsible person in the very least. In essence, weâ€™ve come to a point, where culturally and socially, the driver is at fault automatically. After all, someone behind the wheel of a 2 ton lump of metal thatâ€™s moving at 80 km/h, is no match for a frail human being on the side of a street.
And yes, in many, if not most cases, the driver is to blame.
But lately I feel it necessary to point out that thereâ€™s more to it than meets the eye.
There is a whole driver-pedestrian relationship that is absent in Jordan.
Think about it.
Go to pedestrian-heavy areas. You see people just crossing the street without looking, or feeling it necessary to cross on a heavy-traffic road while a pedestrian bridge remains empty a few meters away. People in Jordan tell their kids to be brave and cross the street in that â€œbe-a-manâ€ kind of mentality. So we see kids running across streets randomly and consistently.
Itâ€™s not one or two people. Itâ€™s not occasional. It is, in fact, consistent.
Iâ€™ve never seen KG students being led by their teacher to a local traffic light to teach them how to look both ways before crossing, or how to obey the traffic law. That development of traffic-culture is embedded in kids in the Western world.
There are so many times that Iâ€™ve seen people walking on a sidewalk with their back to the traffic and then just suddenly decide to step off the curb on to the road, turning around moments later to make sure their still alive. So many times, I have swerved not to hit people who just decide to casually walk across the street. The balad is a good example, and so is Jabal Hussein and other areas of that nature. At times, we see teenage boys who just walk at a snailâ€™s pace without even looking at on-coming traffic, as if daring you to honk the horn at them. Fathers and mothers walk with their kids on the asphalt, seeing them flee from the grip of their hands at any given moment. We see them dodge between parked cars, popping out suddenly.
Who’s to blame? The city? The educational system? The parents? Probably all of the above.
There is a missing traffic-culture, and it goes both ways: for the driver and the pedestrian.
The focus of all these campaigns has been on the driver and I think itâ€™s time to look at the pedestrian side of this relationship.