The Hidden War on the KRG’s Streets
The human casualties and economic cost of the traffic accidents have surpassed the KRG’s war with the so called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). According to the published data, there has been a sharp increase in the traffic accidents in Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) in the last years. There are several reasons for this issue, but the only way to reduce the number of accidents and create a safer environment for passengers and drivers is to establish a comprehensive plan and fully implement it.
Major reason for many fatal accidents is driving over the speed limit and overtaking other cars. The region’s major highways, between Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, Dohuk and Zakho are extremely dangerous especially the latter road which is called ”Road of Death” . Even though the issue in the KRG is multi-factored, not abiding the speed limit and not finding a method to enforce the regulations related to it, can be seen as the main factor, especially as most of the main accidents are the result of high speed.
Aside from the speed, reason for car accidents can be seen in the fact that most of the highways are too old, with lots of potholes due to heavy-trucks’ usage and lack of maintenance.
Most of KRG highways pass through mountainous areas, and they are built with sharp curves and turns, which add more danger to drivers. Adding these factors to the large increase in the number of the vehicles in the region, we have the recipe for an environment, which causes more fatalities than war or arm conflicts. According to a recently published research, Sulaymaniyah City alone has more than 27,500 taxis . Research also shows that 313,105 cars have been imported to Kurdistan Region in the past two and a half years. 80% of those cars are salvage cars , which means second-hand cars that come with many problems as many of them already had accidents. The safety of these imported cars is questionable and leads to increase of the rate of driving accidents.
Comparing Traffic Accident Casualties with the Victims of ISIS War
In 2018, there were more than 12,000 traffic accidents in London with population of 9.1 million . In KRG, with a population of 5.2 million , there were 11 thousand traffic accidents, with 1 thousand deaths and 10 thousand reported injuries . KRG lost 2 thousand Peshmerga and 10 thousand of them were injured in four years of war with ISIS . These numbers show us that the number of traffic accidents in two years is larger than the number of victims of the war in four years. Unfortunately, these numbers have not shocked policy makers in KRG or Federal Iraq.
Another main cause of large number of accidents is the dependency of everyone to have a personal car. Not having an adequate public transportation is the second biggest problem. In London, people mostly use buses, bicycles, subways, and trains. They have access to all kinds of functional public transportation, which has a big influence on traffic by reducing the number of the cars on the streets. People always opt for a better and cheaper form of transportation if available. If they have sufficient and affordable public transportation choices, they will avoid extra cost of having a personal car. Poorly organized, public buses do not work regularly here. To use a middle size buses, common here, sometimes a passenger has to wait for more than half an hour, while in certain times more than two buses move in less than half an hour. In such a situation, one has to take a taxi or drive their own car to save time.
Poor implementation of the traffic law and regulations, led most of the drivers not to follow the law. Most drivers use their cellphones while driving. This has considered as one of the key reasons of car accidents. Local traffic police reports show that in addition to bad roads and poor-quality cars, cellphone use car accidents are rapidly growing while there is no countermeasures by authorities to control this phenomenon.
Another cause of car accidents is drunk driving. According to an international report, nearly 200 thousand people between the age of 18-24 die due to driving drunk . Drinking makes a person sleepy, or tired. However, the alcohol measurement is rarely used in the KRG and many times, it is limited to few areas which the drunk drivers avoid.
Many people drive without a license or with very little experience. Few months ago, a car accident was reported because a child stole his father’s car at 4:00 AM to go out with his friends, and he crashed the car. He was driving so fast that he lost control. Old people and majority of female drivers are sometimes afraid of driving, so they intend to drive very slow, which provokes anger in other drivers and cause road rage that leads to accidents.
Thus, it is time for policy makers in Iraq and KRG to address the disastrous car accidents and come up with legislation projects that will help reducing the rate of accidents. For instance, making the driving-license tests better in order to force new drivers to get more experience and study traffic rules can save many lives. Improving the quality control of used cars might help avoiding many accidents. This issue needs to be addressed on a governmental level just as much as the threats of terror organizations like ISIS.
Besides, incentivizing people towards using public transportation is one of the key policy tools to reduce the human and economic costs of traffic accidents. It is so crucial to provide options of public transportation to people in order to avoid using personal cars and reduce the traffic jams on the roads. The government can push investors to bring bigger buses, trams, and trains to cities.
It is important to acknowledge that major cities in Iraq need a comprehensive approach that will observe this problem from many aspects and have the vision to make the roads safe.
1. http://www.sultraffic.com/Description.aspx?No_=747&M_=3 ( 2019/10/30 20;35)
2. http://www.sultraffic.com/Description.aspx?No_=2255&M_=3 harv away sarawav