Traffic Awareness Campaigns: The Jordanian Way

 It seems that Amman is changing so fast sometimes and the once familiar roads are growing foreign to me every day. Suddenly, the ordinary routes I take to get to specific places around town are changed. Detours take me elsewhere, and the old roads are packed with new speed bumps, traffic lights, tunnels, circles, and traffic signs. It seems these changes happen over night so the way the Amman municipality has taken to making its residents aware of these changes has been phenomenonal.

For instance, the other day I was taking a lunch break from work and heading to sweifieh via the airport road. Our offices are located right behind the Modern American School, which is also my old alma mater, so suffice to say I have been both a resident and a frequent user of these specific roads for well over 15 years of my life. A very small side road that leads into the area from the airport road has been a two way street since I could remember. It is in fact a bit small so usually cars will wait to the side momentarily till the road clears. So as I was leaving work, I took the small path and was suddenly stopped by police who chastised me about not seeing a sign that said there was no entry from my direction. It had become a one way street.

There was also a Municipality truck so I’m pretty sure they put the sign up about 20 minutes before I fell in to their venus fly trap. In fact, they put up three no entry signs, two of which were placed right on top of each other (photographic evidence to be provided later).

It was hot and I didn’t want to argue although I did mention that after using this road for at least 15 years, seven of those years saw me using it twice a day, that I was indeed surprised to make the discovery. The police officer ignored me and came back moments after he had written ticket for two other people to give give me a 5JD ticket and tell me I had two years to pay it; as if this was some sort of perk to getting fined. It was in fact their way of making people aware that the road was changed. Instead of handing out perhaps a few pamphlets to the residents in the area, they sat there all day fining everyone that pretty much lived or worked in the area.

They haven’t shown up sense.

It occurred to me that I’ve seen this, and indeed experienced this very thing several times over the year, and I realized this was apparently the Jordanian version of an awareness campaign. Who can forget the temporary traffic law that Parliament rejected a few months ago during a time when traffic safety was suddenly a national concern. There were traffic cops fining the heck out of people nearly every 1km stretch of road in the country; or so it felt. In the few weeks that this temporary law was in effect, I think the government made enough money to pay down the deficit.

Isn’t there a way of raising awareness that doesn’t involved punishments, either financial or physical?

In a town like Amman, roads are sacred. The residents know most of them by heart and they become instinctive. There are roads that are made one way, for example, and are ignored by the people who have just gotten used to old realities, and those roads usually go back to normal after the police give up on enforcement.

Some of these moves don’t even make sense.

On Mecca St. a traffic light has been placed several meters away from the the Mecca-Medina circle. Cars coming out of the tunnel are faced with a red light now. Doesn’t that defeat the initial purpose of having a tunnel in the first place?

12 thoughts on “Traffic Awareness Campaigns: The Jordanian Way

  1. Dear,

    How can this end? do you think you personally can address this issue directly to the people concerned? GAM? I just find it amazing how clear your ideas are and how you also provide a solution, Man, this should be on the news, 60 minutes or something!

    I really and seriously want to know how this can change, can YOU or others like you do something ? I just hate how this thing could happen and how simply its done with on a blog post..

    There must be something that one can do, the ordinary people can do…

  2. To answer your question, “Isn’t there a way of raising awareness that doesn’t involved punishments, either financial or physical?”
    The answer is No, most people abide by the law because they’ll be punished if they don’t. However the way the police applies these punishments can make a difference. If they had a better system of continuously monitoring speeding cars (not just haphazardly) so that drivers know they cannot exceed the speed limit or they’ll else get screwed, that way people will drive by the speed limit.
    We need way more cameras not just on traffic lights but on the streets as well, and double the penalties on speeding cars. That’s the only way we make people drive safer.
    And oh, for God’s sake, start testing drivers for alcohol. Jordanians are drinking more than before.

  3. Rule of law is a good thing, even when it has to with streets. It would be really good if they could make it apply to the big people too (al kibaar).

  4. I have thought all of these things before. It is tiresome and tedious. Funny thing, I am not sure how the average folk are supposed to abide by the traffic laws when the actual police don’t follow them either. And people blantantly disobey the laws right in the face of a police presence and they know they won’t get a ticket. My mother was in shock when she came two months ago. She kept saying, “Why?” And I kept shaking my head. How the heck can we answer that question? I agree that ticketing is the only way to combat the traffic crime, but you surely don’t put up a sign and later that day, start the ticketing! God help us all!

  5. i just want to comment in the traffic law , and in police presence;
    do u think the law was unfair , i think not ,

    i wish they let it pass the legislation , people need to change their behavior , if it is a one way street ; then it is a one way street -and do not tell me u did not know , we both know u knew -, if it is a red light , then it is a red light ; not reddish nor greenish , people ignore that , unfurtuntly , here in irbid for example ,

    it is not a “collection law” , caz u only get to pay if u break the rules of safety , THE LAW .

    let us remember the size of accidents we have here in jordan

    IT MOST STOP AT ANY COST

  6. Whether the sign was put up 20 minutes or three years ago is irrelevant to the traffic violation.

    Next time I am attending an initiative launch with Queen Rania I would suggest that any time a stop sign is put up somewhere Amman Municipality should take a full spread newspaper ad to let us know about it.

    On a related note, I think keeping a positive attitude would be a more sensible and pragmatic way of tackling everyday Jordanian issues – even when dealing with the injustice of traffic tickets. If every time someone gets a traffic ticket he is going to go on a 650-word rant, we will all end up looking like a population of disgruntled whiners and unfunny cynics – and this is not good for our image.

    Lina,
    Here is Amman Municipality media center contact information 06-4789348.
    You can ask to contact Engineer (Fawzi Mas3ad ) the head of the planning department and ask him whether the tunnel was necessary, whether it contradicts with the lights ahead or whether it had to do with the death of Hikmat Kaddoura…

    PS: ” I think the government made enough money to pay down the deficit.”
    Accusing the government of always being out to get us is always good for a laugh…

    Not to defend Amman municipality or its palace-subcontracting mayor,
    but here is a very rough look at the numbers:
    -According to the annual statistical report (found here http://www.jti.psd.gov.jo).
    the number of traffic tickets in 2007 was 1,360,000 violations for all kind of vehicles.

    -Let us assume that this number was doubled (from over 100,000 tickets per month to say 200,000 with the average fine going up from 10 JDs to 100 JDs) during the alleged awareness campaign that coincided with the canceled traffic law, referenced above.

    -Over the period of five months this will generate: (200,000×100 – 100,000X10)X5 = 95 million JDs in increased revenue [And for a rough estimate you cannot get more inflated numbers].

    -Now given the fact that Jordan’s budget deficit is expected to be around 724 million, Amman’s municipality budget is at a record-high 350 million, and a tricycle cost five JDs, how many designer bags would 95 mil buy?

  7. Jordan has the rule of take it or leave it.. so that’s how it is, and that’s how it’s going to stay for another 20 years or so.
    So you can leave Amman, and enjoy a better life somewhere else.

Your Two Piasters: