Traffic Week: On Automotive Darwinism

If you’ve lived in the West long enough, you’re sure to have participated at some point or other in conversations about who’s traveled to the scariest driving country. This usually comes up as something of a feat of strength along the lines of: “I survived a taxi ride in Cairo, I can survive any kind of driving”, the challenge to which is typically: “Cairo? Oh, but I’ve seen how they drive in Dakar, and Beijing, that’s even worse.” The barometer of comparison is of course, Western driving culture.

I unfortunately don’t escape this pattern. I’m typically in a bit of an automotive shock when I travel from a country where drivers respect the rules of the road to one where anarchy seems to reign ( I use the word anarchy here with the due dose of sarcasm- of course there is some kind of system of rules in these countries, it’s just not a Western one). In most Western cities for example, you would never see a taxi driver passing a cigarette to another taxi driver while they’re both rolling next to each other at 50 km/hour on a busy motorway. And until I had witnessed that from the backseat of the cigarette-soliciting taxi in Cairo, I had never even wondered whether this was legal or not. Two Fridays ago in Beirut, I had the rare privilege of being driven in an armour-plated 4×4 which belonged to a public official. Although I was childishly relishing the experience, I kept snapping out of it every 25 seconds by the gasping fear that the vehicle was about to collide with oncoming cars as it whizzed in and out of lanes without signalling and that it would then roll over and off the road, tumbling down the mountain to the bottom of the valley where I would find my untimely death.

To be sure, driving behaviour in Lebanon in 2009 is leagues ahead of what it was in the 1980’s, when road chaos was just one victim of the breakdown of central authority because of the war. Back then, traffic lights were as decorative as the uncollected litter and indeed did not work at all. Today traffic lights do show their alternating colours, and Lebanese traffic police have begun to pull cars over and hand out tickets for violations. But the frenzied manoeuvring, whenever possible (ie when there’s no police being visible and looking menacing), is very similar to what it was back then.  So when a relative of mine a few days ago realized there’s no traffic police standing at the intersection, she most certainly seized the opportunity to keep speeding right through despite a red light.

What is wrong with driving in these countries? Is reckless driving symptomatic of a wider societal malaise? Is it merely a behavioural illustration of populaces that are less inclined temperamentally to respect order and defer to rules? Is there such a thing as “automotive” Darwinism with some cultures being “automotively civilized” and others being “automotively developing”?  While my life was flashing before my eyes at a rate of twice a minute in that 4×4 two weeks ago, I thought: the reason people drive this way, is because they can get away with it. A Lebanese will drive on the dotted line separating the lanes on a Beirut motorway, but you better believe that when that same person is driving one week later in Paris, or London, or Montreal, he most certainly will not. Why? Because either a) he will get ticketed within 2 attempts of doing something which is expressly prohibited by the law, or b) he will hear from his entourage of their experiences being ticketed for prohibited behaviour. To be very honest, when I’m driving in Europe or North America, the only reason I stop at a red light despite the fact that it might be past midnight and the intersection completely deserted, is because of the fear that a police car might be hiding behind a tree waiting to catch me, and also, because of the memory of being caught before. The knowledge that a sanction is very likely and prohibitively expensive is a very powerful deterrent. The perfect illustration of this can be found in this BBC video showing a car gingerly going up a one-way street, while a traffic policeman is busy yawning and stretching his arms above his head. When you watch that video, don’t focus on the car. Focus on the policeman. Because the problem I’m discussing doesn’t lie in a refusal to comply, it lies in the negligence to enforce. Anyone who dares say that reckless driving in these countries is “part of the culture” is only looking at the car in the BBC video, instead of looking at the yawning policeman. That policeman is yawning instead of ticketing because he is inadequately trained. Obviously the police academy did not spend enough time teaching him the importance of his public appearance, his maintenance, his ethical duties to stop and punish every single traffic violator, in short, how to fulfill the tasks for which he was posted to that location. The yawning policeman is also probably overworked: this video could very well have been filmed in August instead of February, when the desert sun pounds your head like a ton of lead, making you not only miss cars going the wrong way, but possibly also  elephants re-enacting a choreography from Fame. Many taxi drivers in Egypt are accountants, teachers, pharmacists, who supplement their income by working extra shifts driving a cab. If the traffic policeman is as overworked and underpaid as the taxi drivers are, his motivation to properly do his work is probably as low as his chair.

In Lebanon, while cars are being pulled over and fines are being slapped on motorists, it’s probably not frequently enough and for amounts that will hurt the wallet enough to prevent a repeat offense. Ghassan Rahbani, a member of the younger generation of Rahbani brothers (the famous musical duo who composed Fairouz’s songs), was on a talk show recently. He told a story of being stuck in traffic and honking his horn out of frustration. The police pulled him over and fined him 5,000 LL (about US $3). He asked the policeman if he had change for a 10,000 LL note, which the policeman did not. So Ghassan gave him the 10,000 LL note and honked a second time. This story got a lot of laughs on the show, but it illustrates how the fines are not taken seriously enough to correct the at-fault behaviour because the amounts are so ridiculously small. Similarly, my relative who burned the red light wasn’t scared of doing so because she had never been caught and fined before. She didn’t have the memory of a stinging punishment to stop her from committing an offense. Driving in Lebanon has improved because a concerted effort has been made and continues to be made to control and regulate the driving culture and implement a universal respect for the rules of the road. But until this is done with enough uniformity, without any impunity, and with fines that are important enough to act as deterrents, motorists will still think they can get away with it.

So, the moral of this post is: let’s stop talking about reckless driving, let’s stop suggesting that people from the Middle East or other developing countries are genetically predisposed to becoming bad drivers, let’s stop talking about Egyptian motorists being “under a lot of pressure” and Lebanese motorists still suffering the post-traumatic stress symptoms of the war. Because these same people travel every year to Europe, North America, Australia, where they drive just as soundly as any John Smith or Franz Schweizer. Let’s start talking instead about inadequate and insufficient enforcement. And by enforcement, I should make clear that we should not only look to policemen, but beyond them as well. The policeman is only as good as the police academy training he got, and the training can only be up to a standard that is allowed by the funding from the responsible authorities. And let’s not forget, the policeman does not write the laws, he only upholds them. Ultimately, it’s the Ministry of Justice and Parliament who should be legislating with enough sophistication and concern for the health and safety of motorists to develop an automotively developing country. And they should back that up with sufficient willingness to enforce their legislation to cause a trickle down effect that will wake up the yawning policemen of the Middle East.

11 Responses

  1. Blackstar, I am going to call you out on this, like I did Rob earlier when he ranted about Egyptian cabs. This is one of my few areas of expertise, because this came up in drunken conversation in Cairo so many times, I lost count. Several times, it was while someone slightly drunk was driving the car I was sitting in. Despite such reckless behavior *on my part*, I do not believe in this bias. I actually believe in the opposite, which is that their driving system is not that bad in comparison to Western countries. I would say the negative impact of our respectively different driving styles/philosophies is what separates us.

    Cairene drivers, in my opinion, are on the whole very good. Why? They expect the unexpected, and traffic flows in what appears to be a very organic process with others sensing a dynamic environment. People cross the road all the time, specifically where they should not be. People do not follow signs or lights in Egypt (even though, as Zamalek indicates in several large signs, that observing traffic lights is civilized behavior, I shit you not). So, Egyptians are good at gaining awareness of what is around them. That is why several friends who studied with me in Cairo do not cross the street wherever and whenever they please when we still meet up in America. In Cairo, however, they did it all the time. Will someone tell me why? I will: they know Egyptian drivers would react, speeding up or slowing down to make sure the flow was not interrupted and you were not hit.

    As for your argument about the negligence to enforce, you are dead on. But, in Egypt it is proving far too late. Even if they shape up (which they have been trying to do through the new traffic law) and handing out fines that can impoverish everyone except the upper middle class (think AUC Gucci Girl Corner), it appears people will not magically fall into line. Many resisted, and the first day of fines apparently led to some very impassioned arguing between police and citizens. It will be fun to see where this goes, but I imagine not so far. Most likely, it will stay the same.

    So, Egypt and China (my “worst” experiences) strike me as having decent drivers for the very reason you mentioned above: living in chaos makes living in order very easy after the fact. I am not sure if it was nature versus nurture, however, that let one of my best American friends in Cairo drive us all the way to Alexandria on the highway for his first time without any problems. He impressed all the Egyptian in the car, despite it being blatantly illegal. And where did he learn to drive? I think fifteen minutes away from where I grew up in the armpit of America (NJ). Let me also add that he got us there in record time. 🙂 So, Egypt’s driving scene cannot be all that bad.

  2. I think it is a mistake to focus entirely on the problem of enforcement with regards to this issue. To start off with, I should mention that I’ve spent about a decade of my life working as a bicycle courier in the US. Last year, I lived near downtown Cairo and biked pretty much everywhere. This year, I’m unfortunately living out in what seems like the middle of the Sahara in New Cairo, though I still bike here, and about half the time, I even bike to Cairo proper and Maadi. So, given all that, I have a rather intimate relationship with traffic generally, and in Cairo specifically.

    To be sure, enforcement of traffic laws has a substantial effect on people’s driving behavior, but I don’t think that the issue can be distilled so simply down to that issue (I speak as a habitual scofflaw here). For the most part, Cairo drivers are fairly experienced and skillful, especially in the center of the city on surface roads. I tend to think that strict enforcement of the most sophisticated traffic laws would have little effect on fatalities in these areas. But these same drivers then take those skills into the completely different environment of flyovers and open desert highways, where those skills are inapplicable and indeed fatally dangerous. And then there is also something about the design of these newer traffic spaces that encourages drivers to believe that they should be moving quickly and effortlessly through space to their destinations on the other side of town or out to some desert compound, as if they were in an episode of the Jetsons. A few weeks ago, I was traveling in a taxi with some visiting friends on just one such flyover when I spotted the driver next to me speaking on not one, but TWO cell phones while driving down the road. A few minutes later, we passed a pedestrian splattered across the pavement on the opposite side of the flyover.

    Lack of good laws or their enforcement is not what creates these sort of situations. What creates these sort of situations is the EXPECTATION of safety and security from modern infrastructure, an infrastructure that tends to efface people’s ability to evaluate real dangers in deference to a focus on their final destination, with every other car, pedestrian, donkey cart or bike a mere obstacle on their way there.

    You can expect Cairo’s continued sprawl out to these desert compounds to make things only worse in the future. Perhaps some more enforcement might help, but lets not loose track of the bigger picture in favor of easy legislate-and-enforce half-measures.

    Enforcement, in any case is a pipe-dream. As far as I understand, traffic cops don’t even actually issue tickets even when they are enforcing the law—they write down plate numbers and drivers pay their accumulated fines once a year when they pay their registration. They may stop drivers on occasion (to collect ba2sheesh), but considering how little they are paid, they have every right to claim that chasing down infractions is above their pay grade. If you want a professional police force, you have to be willing to pay for one, rather than just treating it as a cheap employment absorption scheme.

  3. Entertaining and interesting.

    I also witnessed one driver handing another taxi driver a cigarette while driving in Cairo. I think it’s important to point out that the taxi’s were heading in the same direction, at high speed, on a busy road. This means that one driver had to lean all the way across the front passenger seat out the window to make the hand off…picture that, please. Then, tell me what you pictured because I was so terrified I had my eyes closed.

    In Beijing I once found myself on a highway with a cab driver who for no apparent reason, slammed on the breaks, came to a full stop, opened his car door, spit loudly and forcefully (by this time I was no longer shocked at the sight of people spitting everywhere) and then continued along. I have no idea how we didn’t get hit, and why he couldn’t have spit out the window.

    In reflecting on your post, Blackstar, it occurs to me that it must be more than just a lack of enforcement that causes this behavior. I remember being in downtown Montreal one day with a friend from Washington DC who, without being prompted just blurted out, “I am so glad I don’t have a car here, I could NEVER survive Montreal drivers.” Montreal has fairly rigid traffic enforcement and people there know they can face hefty penalties for rule violation. On the other hand, traffic in places like Ottawa, two hours away from Montreal (much faster for a Montreal driver) is infuriatingly orderly. I wonder if perhaps it’s western society that’s the anomaly to the rest of the world (with the exception of Quebec which sees itself as different than the rest of the west, or North America at least.)

    I wonder, if just as Montreal is a pocket of automotive insanity in North America, there are places that are islands of western style driving in countries where all the other drivers are nuts.

  4. aha! very entertaining 🙂

    But I have to say, I think Al Haraka has a point. I wondered the same thing after some time in Mumbai, about the smooth organic flow of the traffic and the relative lack of accidents and injuries (relative to the sheer volume of people and traffic). I remember wondering whether there wasn’t a lesson in this for how traffic might be managed in Cape Town, which struggles with the tension between the automotively developed and the automotively developing, as Blackstar put it. And I had to smile to myself during the BBC clip you linked, where the presenter is decrying three men on a motor bike (and without helmets – the horror!), or that motorists don’t stop at pedestrian crossings (shock!), or that no-one gets out the way for an ambulance (where should they move to?!).

    The issue is more complex than poor policing or that no-one fears the law and therefore feels no incentive to obey the rules. Think what would happen if everyone in Cairo woke up tomorrow and decided to obey the letter of the law. Well, I haven;t been to Cairo, so can’t speak from experience, but in Mumbai, the city would grind to a halt, no-one would be able to move. The fact is you need the smooth steady flow of traffic simply because there’s so much of it. It’s like a river, it needs to keep moving. But Fhar has a point with regard transferring one’s particular driving skills in crowded streets to the open spaces of highways and flyovers. What works in one set of circumstances won’t necessarily in another.

  5. Blackstar,
    Why do you hate the Lebanese people? Would you please stop treating the Lebanese people as if they are children? Are you a NeoCon?

  6. Al Haraka,

    Thanks for your comments, I really appreciate your fleshed our reponse, but I have several issues with it.

    First, I’m not quite sure I understand your first paragraph. You almost sound like you’re pretending to have expertise in taxi driving behaviour because you’ve gotten drunk or were in a car with someone who was. If that is what you’re saying, that doesn’t give you expertise, and if it’s not what you’re trying to say, then I’m a victim of mangled sentences. I’m also uncertain about what bias it is you don’t believe in. If you’re referring to me showing bias, then I am quite confident I made it clear it in my post that I oppose any culture-based explanations for bad driving.

    Second, I seriously take issue with your definition of what makes a good driver, which according to you seem to only be based on one’s ability to react to unexpected occurrences. That certainly is one skill, but there are many others. Memorizing and respecting the rules of the road is the major one. I fully concede and recognize that there are rules of the road in any society with cars. But what I will call the “universal” rules, which include stop signs, one-way street warnings, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, and designated lanes, have been designed because they are the best way of ensuring the safety of EVERYONE (including very importantly: pedestrians), and the smooth flow of traffic. These rules of the road have been developed because human beings are fallible and CAN’T always anticipate the unexpected. They’re made to reduce to the minimum the number of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events which cause accidents, injuries and deaths. The fact that a driver has quick reactions and good instinct only goes so far in protecting himself and those around him; the rules of the road are there so one doesn’t have to resort to one’s instincts all the time. In a “developed” automotive society, one’s instincts should only in exceptional circumstances supplement the rules of the road, but they should never be the main regulating force in a motorist’s behaviour. And if I can go back to my qualifying rules of the road as “universal”, no one can deny that they are, because stop signs and street lights exist in all countries. So there is a universal acceptance about these principles, the only problem is getting people to respect them, which I am arguing here is due in overwhelming part to how legally obligated motorists feel to respect them.

    I feel strange even justifying myself here in the defense of rules of the road; this discussion for example would never even take place among sailors. The rules of the road were preceded by centuries if not millennia by the rules of navigation. Any budding sailor learns right from the get-go specific rules of navigation: which ship has priority, which tack you should assume when there’s an oncoming ship, etc. all with the sole purpose of ensuring safety and avoiding collisions at sea. No sailor is taught to “just rely on your instincts”, because if they tried to do that in a real-life collision situation, they would have no way of guessing how the oncoming ship’s master is “instinctively reacting”.

    Your friends who cross the street anywhere they want in Cairo have no choice to do that: there are no designated pedestrian crossings for them to use. And of course they wouldn’t do that in the US, because in the US, there are. You can cross the street on foot in all comfort and assurance, walking at your own pace and looking in front of you, instead of holding out your hand flat toward the oncoming cars and running for dear life. You are aware are you not that there is a country-wide crisis in Egypt because of the number and gravity of accidents? Rules of the road are meant to reduce these, because clearly “driver instinct” is not enough. Your friends in Cairo might be springy and healthy young adults, but if I were an 85-year old man with a cane, or a mother pushing a baby stroller, I wouldn’t be so self-assured crossing a 5-lane street on foot in the middle of traffic.

    Now on the subject of enforcement, there is never such a thing as “too late”. When I was a kid growing up in Lebanon during the war, I remember asking my parents once what the posts on the street were for. And they answered: “Street lights. In countries where there is no war and where there is electricity, the lights come on to tell cars when to stop and when to go”. In my mind, functioning street lights were fascinating and surreal. I don’t think many people of my generation who hadn’t seen Lebanon before the war ever imagined street lights functioning and being observed in their country. But now they largely are. So it wasn’t too late there. Why should it be too late in Egypt? If I can identify an obstacle larger than the negligence to enforce, it’s probably the laissez-faire attitude of people who think things can’t be changed, that a solution is not possible, that a problem can’t be fixed, that people can’t learn.

    Also, I disagree with your point that fines would impoverish. A fine isn’t a general tax. It’s not meant to be applied to everyone. The purpose of a fine is to correct exceptional wrongdoing. If one motorist gets fined, he won’t repeat that mistake again. And I’m sure you know how quickly word can spread. If the story of that one fine gets around to that person’s street, friends and extended family, you better believe those who hear it will be careful not to commit the same mistake. You need one example to correct widespread behaviour.

    Now your last paragraph also made me raise an eyebrow. You first seem to be contradicting yourself by saying Egypt and China were your “worst” driving experiences, but then continue on to say that they were pretty decent drivers. How is that possible? How are you measuring the driving in these countries? Is it because you were impressed with the speed at which motorists can slam on their brakes? You’ll have to excuse me Al Haraka, but with all due respect, I do feel like you’re trying to straddle the line between being a cultural relativist who’s trying to find excuses for why things can’t and shouldn’t be improved in these countries, to being an “automotive Darwinist” when you say you’re uncertain whether driving is a question of “nature vs nurture”.

  7. Fhar,

    Thanks very much for your comments as well.

    You write : “But these same drivers then take those skills into the completely different environment of flyovers and open desert highways, where those skills are inapplicable and indeed fatally dangerous.”

    My post isn’t about urban driving vs off-road driving, or sleepy country town-driving vs crowded city driving. It’s not about what skills you can develop in what environment. The subject I’m tackling is the existence of rules of the road, their observation by motorists, and their proper enforcement by public authorities. If I’m an Londoner and I see a sign with a speed limit, I know that I need to drive at that speed limit whether I’m on Charring Cross Road in one of the busiest streets of London, or on the A4. When I talk about reckless driving, it’s the blatant disregard for established rules. If I drive in a tiny medieval German town every day, and I get on the Autobahn once a month, I will continue to observe the same rules by staying in my lane, signalling before changing lanes, slowing down to the speed limit when I see a speed limit sign. These are basic things. The reason drivers in Germany, and the UK do those things, is because they actually had to take lessons and pass an exam before getting an official license. And because they know that when they violate certain rules, they have a strong risk of being penalized if caught, up to losing their license. In Lebanon, until very recently, driver’s licenses could be purchased if you knew the right people, which most people did. But not anymore! So change is possible. It only needs enough willingness by the authorities for it to be initiated and carried out.

    You also said: “Lack of good laws or their enforcement is not what creates these sort of situations. What creates these sort of situations is the EXPECTATION of safety and security from modern infrastructure.”

    What do you mean by modern infrastructure? Paved roads without potholes? Street lights? Stop signs? What’s the use of having a modern infrastructure if no one feels obliged to respect it? If I see a stop sign, I SHOULD expect safey and security if I’m a pedestrian crossing. The fact that I’m not feeling it is due to motorists not respecting the stop sign. Which takes us back to enforcement.

    Re: your last paragraph, you seem to be agreeing exactly with my point that enforcement needs to be carried out uniformly, fairly and properly, for it to have any effect. And you can’t have that without a properly trained police force.

  8. Karl,

    I’ve never been called a neo-con, so that made me laugh a little (but not too much). I don’t hate Lebanese people, because that would mean hating myself.

    If you think that I hate Lebanese, or that I’m a neo-con, then you’ve completely missed my point and mis-understood absolutely every thing about my post. I think you should go back and re-read it a little more carefully. I’m sorry I can’t answer you with more detail than that, but your accusation is so unwarranted, unjustified and ungrounded, that I don’t even know where to start.

  9. > The fact that a driver has quick reactions and good instinct only goes
    > so far in protecting himself and those around him; the rules of the road
    > are there so one doesn’t have to resort to one’s instincts all the time.
    >  In a “developed” automotive society, one’s instincts should only in
    > exceptional circumstances supplement the rules of the road, but they
    > should never be the main regulating force in a motorist’s behaviour.
    >  And if I can go back to my qualifying rules of the road as “universal”,
    > no one can deny that they are, because stop signs and street lights
    > exist in all countries. So there is a universal acceptance about these
    > principles, the only problem is getting people to respect them, which I
    > am arguing here is due in overwhelming part to how legally obligated
    > motorists feel to respect them.

    I beg to disagree. I feel a great deal safer as a cyclist in downtown Cairo than pretty much anywhere I’ve biked in the US or Canada or, for that matter, even Amsterdam. And that is because drivers in downtown Cairo are paying a hell of a lot more attention than drivers I’ve encountered anywhere else. It has nothing to do with “instincts” and everything to do with attentiveness. It is precisely those places where drivers are lulled into a sense of safety and security by automobile-centric infrastructure and legislation that I feel least safe. I agree “instincts” should never be the “main regulating force in a motorist’s behaviour”, if for no other reason than that no such instincts exist (a century is not really enough time to have developed anything that I would call an instinct). Attentiveness, followed by skill and local convention, should absolutely, in my opinion, be the “main regulating forces in a motorist’s behaviour”. Notice that I say “local convention”, not law.

    The allusion to maritime navigation in my opinion is not apt. All but the most cumbersome of motor vehicles (I’m thinking of triple trailers) are more maneuverable than just about any sea-faring vessel. Besides, maritime navigation laws are necessarily universal by virtue of the international nature of the seas. Maritime navigation conventions are no more applicable than railroad right-of-way conventions. And yet people such as yourself continue to peddle the notion that there is, or should be, some universal convention, and—what’s more—that it should be devised by technocrats and politicians and enforced by police. Yes, this is an entirely “normal” assertion, and yet it is not necessary correct. Maritime navigation laws (I’m guessing here) came more or less out of informal conventions that spread and were made universal by nature of the global space they traveled through. There is no compelling reason that this should necessarily be the case with automobiles—no compelling reason, that is, other than the form of imperialism that nowadays goes under the moniker “globalization.”

    And this is the crux of my argument: many of Egypt’s traffic fatalities can be attributed to modern infrastructure (by which I’m referring to things like flyovers, highways and wide roads with sidewalks, not street lights and stop signs) which was built according to the demands of capital accumulation and according to the specifications of far-away civil engineers. So, sure, you can argue that Cairo’s and Egypt’s traffic problems can be solved by implementing a host of “universally-accepted” traffic conventions, under force of law and hefty punishment. But you have to recognize that this would necessarily be part of a larger package of “universally-accepted” urban-planning and structural adjustment conventions that are not, in fact, universally-accepted, but are rather very much contested. Egypt has always been a somewhat reluctant (or simply incompetent, if you want to go that route) partner to “globalization”, and as a result currently experiences many of the down-sides and few of the benefits of “globalization.” Perhaps if it had only embraced globalization (I’m getting tired of the quotes) more fully, it wouldn’t have it’s current problems with people dying in bread lines, traffic accidents and sinking ferries. But I think we all know where such whole-hearted embrace of globalism has gotten us.

    There are other solutions to the problem. As I see it, the problem lies with newer traffic infrastructure catering to flows of commodities across the country and people between desert compounds and the center of the city. Even if we accept these trends as inevitable, there are ways to deal with it other than legislation and punishment. As I said previously, I believe attentiveness, followed by skill and local convention, should be the main regulating forces in a motorist’s behaviour. The problem is that here, as everywhere, convention is often given precedence over attentiveness and skill, and those conventions are woefully inadequate to these newer roadways of which I speak. Imposing laws, particularly in a state as dysfunctional as Egypt, will not change conventions. The fact is, surprisingly, people don’t want to die, nor are they particularly keen on killing others. This, I think, is a much greater motivator than a traffic ticket. You are correct to point out that people drive the way they do because they can get away with it. In addition to not getting tickets (or at least not realizing they’re getting tickets until they pay their registration), they haven’t yet been killed or killed anyone else—most of them anyway. The policeman is more likely to make the offender irate than conscientious. The money that would be required to adequately compensate a “professional” police force would be infinitely better spent, in my opinion, on a campaign to educate drivers about the consequences of reckless driving for their own and their loved-ones’ lives, with a focus on the dangers particular to newer roadways. There are organizations out there that do this, but, to my knowledge, they are mostly western-funded NGOs whose overall approach is similar to yours: preaching to people about how they need to follow “universally-accepted” traffic laws. In ten years of working as a bicycle messenger in the US, I paid as little attention as most messengers to the traffic laws (which is to say very little), and yet I’ve been in maybe 10 semi-serious crashes (i.e., requiring that I take a break for 30min or more), NONE of which resulted from breaking traffic laws (and most of which involved only me and the pavement and no drivers, cyclists, pedestrians or anyone else). This is because I took my own well-being and that of my fellow humans into consideration and paid the due amount of attention to the laws that are most important: gravity, momentum, centrifugal force, etc. Yes, people are fallible, but I am not of the opinion that penal codes and policemen make them any less so, or any less dangerously so.

  10. Blackstar, I am surprised you took my comments so seriously and distorted a great deal of what I said. I never said there were no needs for the rules. I will, however, still assert that drivers in Egypt are much more skilled, laws or no laws. I think Fhar defends our position well enough, I will not go into the details.

  11. I’m a college student mastering Math and looking for ways to put my time to use to repay the debts for the time being. This is good tips on getting paid to post. Thank you!

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