One of the unreasonable proposals made by a female legislator is to ban the issuance of driving licenses to residents (expatriates) saying they are the reason for congestion on the roads. She went on to add insult to injury and suggested if the expatriates do not accept the ban they can leave the country.
This strange proposal reminded me of the first ban imposed on driving licenses. It was in early 1970s when the traffic crisis intensified. One of the officers in the traffic department joked and said the driving licenses should be stopped for a while and the senior officer transformed the joke into a reality.
However, the officer who made the proposal asked the senior official what he should do if the son of that official, for example, applied for a driving license and the reply was he should be exempted. What about doctors, teachers, firefighters, nurses, senior managers of banks and large companies and other vital professions, and the response was the same ‘exclude them’.
Here, it was decided that the ban should continue, while giving the Director-General of the General Traffic Department the right for exceptions, so he received gifts, presents, mediations, interventions from ministers, MPs and elders and this made him the most important and influential person.
With his signature, a porter becomes a driver of a huge construction company driving a truck and earning hundreds of dinars and someone who knew or was close to the director-general surely obtained the driving license.
In spite of the ban and the accompanying exceptions, the cars continued to make a beeline on our vast roads and increased and multiplied. It has become a regular sight of a senior traffic officer standing at the crossroads at the Ministries Complex early in the morning to monitor the traffic flow as if his presence will speed up the traffic movement.
It would have been much better if he had remained in his office and found solutions to the traffic problem instead of standing with hands crossed and monitoring the traffic movement from behind his dark shades and inhaling a big amount of carbon dioxide.
Yesterday, the director of the Public Roads Authority announced signing of an agreement with a foreign company to make seven lanes in either direction on the Fourth Ring Road while there are highways and roads which are being completed and will be completed in the next few years which cost the country billions of dollars.
All of this is beautiful and wonderful and needed, however the solution is not only to build more and more roads and bridges, but it lies elsewhere. Before we talk about it, let us look at the following joke: ‘Western scientists spend billions to improve the sexual performance of humans, but they do not spend enough to cure Alzheimer’s, so a day will come when people will wonder what their body organs mean.
In the midst of our preoccupation with the creation and expansion of new roads, the construction of bridges and additional lanes, we have forgotten that traffic movement is linked to good morals and behavior and not an engineering issue at first sight. One reckless driver can block the flow of thousands of other vehicles.
The tragedy is that many officials do not look at the moral side of traffic or do not give it due importance. The Ministry of Education, for example, has never bothered to include traffic ethics, or for that matter any ethics at all, in its curricula.
I do not think mosque preachers are concerned with traffic issues, which is certainly not a priority. Thus, the traffic problem will remain as long as the ethics are absent. The proof of this is the quality of leaders varies from one area to another in the same country and all that we ask is ‘Why’?
In the midst of this, we wish the Director-General will intensify the tests before granting driving license, especially the written side of it and raise awareness of road hazards and penalties. A majority of those I know do not know the tough traffic sanctions, if they know they will be more careful.
Any talk about developing traffic without finding solution to the means of mass transport is meaningless. We end our article with greetings to Engineer Ja’afar Behbehani, and a statement that he is the only Kuwaiti who may end up working with parties, wearing ghutra and oqal and often riding a bicycle to contribute to overcome the traffic crisis.
By Ahmad Al Sarraf