WE direct the attention of our brethren in the Ministry of Interior, particularly those in the General Traffic Department, to the level of chaos in our “historic” streets and lack of reverence for law or deterrence from the agencies in charge of ensuring that laws are observed.
The first chaos is lack of respect for the ‘Stop’ sign, which is almost a sacred sign in the countries where people and the establishment respect the law.
This takes me back a few decades when I was an attorney at the Public Prosecution in the first half of the seventies. At that time, the then Public Prosecutor — late Fares Al-Waqiyan asked my opinion and observation on the new traffic bill the government wanted to adopt.
As I perused through the draft law, I noticed it lacked several articles that were implemented in modern countries, and I could remember that motorists were obliged to halt for a moment at a “Stop” sign before joining the main street.
I had a similar experience while studying in France after completing high school. I was cruising with one of my friends in a densely agricultural area when I decided to exit to the main road without stopping, supposing there was no incoming traffic from either sides of the road.
As I drove off, a traffic police on a motorcycle started trailing me and ordered me to pull over; I was surprised. He then asked why I did not stop at the sign “Stop”, and my automatic response was “there’s no incoming traffic”, and he replied: “that is not the point, you are supposed to stop at the ‘Stop’ sign whether or not there is incoming traffic.” I don’t remember if he issued me a traffic citation or he allowed me to drive off with a warning.
The episode has since remained with me. I proposed such regulations should be incorporated in the Kuwaiti traffic law, and that is exactly what happened. However, neither the motorists nor the traffic police respect this law or even force motorists to respect it. The traffic police and motorists continue to dwell in the seventies.
Another chaos the motorists witness is the use of mobile phone, which is absolutely prohibited while driving.
One of my friends said he stopped at the traffic light while driving in Germany and waited for the red signal to turn green. He then decided to check his mobile phone to see if he received any call or message, and a traffic police approached and rebuked him for using the phone. The officer ensured that my friend was issued a traffic violation before letting him go.
It is absolutely prohibited to use the mobile phone or even touch it while behind the steer, so my friend should have stopped by the wayside or any appropriate location where he could use the phone if it was really necessary for him to check his message.
Here in Kuwait, it is not only the motorists that use phones to take photos, videos and all types of irresponsible behavior, the police from all sectors also participate in this misconduct. You might even find a young policeman behind the wheel at a junction playing on his mobile phone, just as a citizen or expatriate would do.
One of my friends in France also told me that it’s prohibited for the French police to carry their mobile phones in their pockets while on patrol, and they are forced to leave the phones at their respective stations until the shift is over.
Last but not the least, we see motorists in worn out vehicles racing the wind in our streets and posing great risk to other motorists at night. When it comes to worn out vehicles, especially those lacking either head or tail lights or both, they’re sometimes seen at the side of the traffic patrol cars, and the police will not even flinch. Is this right?
There are many observations but space is not enough to put them down. We might spare time and opportunity to shed light on them in the coming days; perhaps, we might spark a positive change once and for all.
By Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli – Former Minister of Oil