Speed Kills & So Does Culture

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, we’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 “slow down”, drivers have become demonized. Even in the casual conversations people have; when a new accident happens and someone says “did you hear about…?” the conversation usually ends with someone calling the driver a speeding jackass at worst or an irresponsible person in the very least. In essence, we’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 that’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 there’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 “be-a-man” kind of mentality. So we see kids running across streets randomly and consistently.
It’s not one or two people. It’s not occasional. It is, in fact, consistent.

I’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 I’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 snail’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 it’s time to look at the pedestrian side of this relationship.


  • Well said my friend. Wish people would learn respect for the driver and the biker and the pedestrian, then we woldnt have much accidents anymore.

  • the problem is that individuals think they own the road!…There is no one culprit in this case, unfortunately. the majority of the people in Jordan whether drivers, pedestrians, bikers.. etc mostly lack traffic manners, and therefore the consequences are disastrous!
    the lack of social awareness regarding traffic rules is the key to the rise of such a problem; the same reckless driver behind the wheel when becoming a pedestrian behaves in the same reckless manner the people in the street do! it’s just a vicious cycle, the same people committing fatal mistakes over and over in the streets and then blaming each other.. unless every individuals takes on himself/herself the responsibility of behaving right in the street, whether pedestrian or driver, there won’t be an end to such tragic traffic accident!

  • “People in Jordan tell their kids to be brave and cross the street in that “be-a-man” kind of mentality. ”

    This is new to me. Please tell me it’s not true…it is ‘manly’??? Oh, how FAR we have yet to go.

    Pedestrians who are not drivers really have no clue as to the danger they are putting themselves in. As Secratea said, then those who do drive who know ignore the known danger.

    The problem with pedestrian education is that it will take a LONG time to see true change, as there is no visible carrot or stick, unless it is made a part of the school curriculum like yesterday. Then moms will learn it with the kids. the curriculum IS covering environmental issues and water conservation at the elementary level, so it wouldn’t be hard to add it to the shu ismo, Mehani book.

    The latest increased costs of traffic violations is making my friends slow down and stop talking on the phone, pronto. Instant results. I think when people see results, and read of marked decreases in traffic accidents, they are more likely and willing to police themselves to be a part of the solution.

  • I always hear that throughout the unfortunate events of 1970, when the military roamed Amman, they managed to enforce discipline in traffic as well.

    When pedestrians crossed streets wrongfully, they would charge that person 10 piaster. After they left and things went back to civil status, people remained abiding for a while before they went wild again.

    What bothers most, are the slow and those crossing traffic lights through the middle where cars are always running fast.

  • I couldn’t agree more with u…. but you forgot to mention the pedestrians that like to cross the street at the end of a tunnel where a few meters away there is a bridge, they are just telling the driver I WANT TO DIE.. run over me !!!! but there is a point you forgot to mention.. have you ever tried to cross the street where there is a crosswalk, and I dare you if you try. none of the drivers will stop to let you pass, although the law says that the priority is always given to the pedestrians !!!
    I guess we will need many years to get to that point, lets start by learning some cultural education because I guess that should be the solid base

  • but hey come on tell me how many drivers stop to allow pedestrians to cross the street on the zebra crossings???????? The problem is even the police officers won’t take any action to let you cross the street from there, they should be stopping cars for that! In Balad and Jabal Husain parts of the street are tiled as a way to tell driver LET PEOPLE CROSS and they never do! I’ve always posed the argumentative question of how to instill morals in a community?

    It’s weird cause I lived in Aqaba for a couple of years and I should say they all respect the zebra line (except in weekends when it’s filled with people form Amman) and kept asking myself what created that habit ? how to pass it on to people in Amman?

  • Kinzi, you are right about the new fines making people think twice about what they are doing. I know I am super careful about stopping at yellow lights instead of red now as well as being more conservative regarding cell phone usage while driving. I counted 3 times I pulled off the road yesterday to talk on the cell phone – I would NEVER have done that a couple of months ago.

    I think we can equate it with a trip to the grocery store. Personally, I do stop and think about what I am buying at the grocery now instead of just throwing whatever I want in the buggy. Money, or the lack thereof, truly is a great deterrent!

    And, regarding pedestrians, I have ALMOST hit more people who simply step out into the street in front of my car than I care to count! Anyone know if it is true that I would automatically be carted off to jail if I hit a pedestrian regardless of the circumstances?

  • Here are other cultural reasons why everyone speeds, Mawa3eed el 3arab always late but always rushing. The majority also suffers delusions of grandeur, drivers thinking who the hell do you think you are? i’m not gonna let you pass me..3aref meen ana? I’m not gonna stop for you pitiful human you’re so down the food chain you don’t even own a car. I don’t care if el owlaweyeh fil dowar is lil qadem min el yasar inta mish 3aref el date el mohem elli 3endi ana. Honk at me all you want yes share3 abooy o beddi akasder 3a mahli. Add to that the culture of staring others down which means your eyes are not on the road and you’re increasing rage road.

  • there is a third factor at work here, too, and that is the poor condition of the sidewalks in amman. it is just not a pedestrian-friendly city.

  • We have pedestrian crossing areas, we have decent streets, we have operating traffic lights, we have speed limits.
    What we don’t have is enforcement of law 24/7.
    In the US I was astonished by how “slow” Americans drive their cars, especially around school areas where they drive at 15 mph. If they drive at 20, they’d get a speeding ticket for 120 dollars or more.
    If you drive way over the speed limit you can end up in jail. Policemen are everywhere day and night and people do watch for them.

    I used to speed a lot in Jordan but now I’m driving like an old half-blind man, Americans would drive like Jordanians if law was enforced on them.

  • We lack many things, the propper raods, propper pedistrian, and people have no ethics when tehy drive wither it was at busy crossroads or quiet neighborhoods, why should an innocent 4 year old kid die while crossing the street infront of their house!

  • Ali, what you’re saying about the four year old is extremely sad.. May his soul RIP. but doesn’t this accident make you wonder WHY ON THE FACE OF EARTH WAS A FOUR YEAR OLD CROSSING THE STREET ON HIS OWN?? WHY WAS HE OUTSIDE ALONE TO START WITH??? WHERE WERE HIS/HER PARENTS???
    In such a case, the parents are the only ones to be blamed.. yes, you might say, the car that hit the kid was speeding, hence the accident lead to his fate, but still.. a kid that young shouldn’t ever be out on the streets on his own!

  • SubhanAllah. My mother was here visiting from the US. She has never been in the Middle East before. We were driving away from the Third Circle towards Shemaisani and the turn off to Wadi Saqra and there was a like a five year old boy just standing in the middle of road on the bridge. I thought my mom would pass out. Alhamdulillah. God protected her eyes from a lot of things that I have seen here in the roads, but she was very shocked.

    On another note, my husband brought me a hands-free unit for my Bluetooth accessible cellphone from the States. This thing is really great. MashAllah. You charge it in the cigarette lighter and it can clip onto your visor. You can accept calls with the push of one button and you will hear the call on the speaker. It is clear as a bell. MashAllah. I think everyone should have some type of service like this to cut down on the accidents and problems associated with cell phone usage in the cars. In many states in the US this is the law. Hands-free only phone usage in cars. Hello Jordan, wake up!

  • Sec, I read that the 4 year old was holding his father’s hand, and the father was hit also, breaking both legs. It was the kid’s birthday. That said, there are plenty of little kids hanging out in the street with no supervision at all.

  • My husband bleets out the window at slow pedestrians. He did this in the states as well. I have to say I love it.

    I’m a huge fan of sidewalks…why do people think it’s a driveway? If cars park on the sidewalk, then pedestrians end up in the road…give parking tickets to vehicles who park on pedestrian sidewalks.

    I haven’t seen any signage telling pedestrians how to cross the road…it’s mostly a “good luck” feeling trying to cross busy four lane w/median streets around here or trying to manuever around a circle.

    I also miss the lane dividers since too many people think two lane roads are three lane roads (read taxis and other brave souls).

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