Come school season and you dread driving on Bahrain’s roads. Hundreds of thousands of motorcycles, sedans, SUVs, buses, trucks and trailers, all vie for every inch of asphalt.
Beating congestion is one thing, but passing ill-disciplined drivers – who show total disregard for traffic rules and consider it a birthright to cut you off and then arrogantly stare at you upon your cue – is no mean feat.
I say an individual is best tested in two situations – on the roads and in marriage. And it’s sheer composure that saves you from awkward consequences in both instances.
Now back to the roads. I personally feel building more roads or widening the existing arteries is just part but not the complete solution. A wholesome plan would include drivers’ training, use of latest detection methods, better traffic management, and strict enforcement of rules and penalties.
The drivers’ training given when you apply for a licence here is a mere two hours. It’s impossible for the instructor to cover the basic rules on the road in such a short time. I remember in Sharjah (UAE), the driving instructions phase was comprehensive and spanned over more than a week, and was followed by a written/oral test. You could only proceed to the practical sessions if you cleared this part. I bet most drivers here don’t even know to read the different road markings.
In the use of detection methods, the world has come very far. Bahrain too has installed latest cameras on the roads to detect speeding and other violations, such as seat-belts or use of mobile phones.
Additionally, it would help to engage the public here since the population of drivers is huge to handle. Dash cams connected to specially developed traffic apps can be optionally installed by drivers and footage or images used as evidence in disputes.
Personally, I like dash cams because we as delinquents don’t easily own up to our mistakes when confronted, and the case could linger on forever. Footage from such devices could lead to snap judgements by officers.
Now, if you have good drivers and the latest detection techniques, do you still need to manually manage traffic? Well, we humans are at our best if someone is looking over us. The moment there are no monitors, we moult into a different species. And this is very true on the roads.
Observation shows us the sharpest looking individual behaves in an unexpected manner behind the wheel. In fact, the bigger (and luxurious) the vehicle, the worse is their conduct. These drivers feel a sense of entitlement to the road it seems. So yes, frequent traffic patrolling can help us encompass our inner savage.
A suggestion that has been employed in many cities around the world is the curfew on heavy vehicles in rush hours. They should be allowed on the roads only after 8am, and accordingly later in the day. This will not only help reduce congestions, it will also have a positive green impact.
As for the relation of rules and penalties to human behaviour, it is relative to the consequences; and everyone – from the divine to the mortal – has employed that. Fear is a great motivator.
On my road trip to the UAE, I closely observed traffic systems of three countries. I must say it’s a different feeling when you drive in the UAE. Even on empty highways, trucks kept to their lanes and drove within speed limits. On the contrary, here in Bahrain, you will get to see transport trailers and buses challenge sedans in the fast lanes.
In the emirate of Abu Dhabi, cameras are fixed sharply on the road limit; there is no grace limit, and the fines are hefty.
However, more than anything else, the key gain from a better managed traffic environment is the precious lives that can be saved from pointless death. Go ask a person who has lost a family member on the road.
- The writer is a Bahraini journalist and deputy editor of Gulf Construction magazine – firstname.lastname@example.org