At least 45 people will die on the roads this week

At least 45 people will die on the roads this week

It is like this during every holiday (“Bayram” in Turkish) season. When I write this title, editors don’t like it because it is demoralizing just before Bayram. “Let us not darken people’s moods prior to Bayram,” they would tell me; I would agree with them every time and take a step back. Then a few days later after Bayram, they would say I was right and that I was right again. 

The other day there was a story in all the papers that confirmed my figure. In the past 10 years, during each religious holiday a total of 876 people have died in traffic accidents. That is an annual average of 87 people, and for each Bayram it is an average of 44 people.

This summer, I did something I had not done for years; I drove all the way from Istanbul to Bodrum, southwest Turkey, two days before the Eid al-fitr, and then I drove back a few days after. 

In other words, I was not involved in the “Bayram traffic” but I drove in very intense traffic back and forth. 

Because I had not been on the inter-city roads for many years, I might have missed the developments in the meantime, but what I saw this summer is that there is incredible intensity on the roads. Because of double highways, maybe this intensity is not felt much except for in city and town centers, but it is only a short while before the road between Balıkesir and Manisa will look like Istanbul’s inner-city traffic. 

In one way, this intensity will be our biggest guarantee against fatal traffic accidents in the future. However, I’m afraid we will lose 45 of our citizens this week as they travel to and from their Bayram destinations.  

How come the same thing has happened again and again for years and how come this country cannot find a solution to this problem? 

When it is the traffic in question, individual responsibilities go hand-in-hand with social responsibilities. Even if you put a policeman at each kilometer of the road, unless individuals who are driving act responsibly, you would not be able to solve this problem. 

Moreover, every individual who is driving on the road has to act responsibly. It may be true that responsible drivers are probably more than 99 percent of all drivers but even one irresponsible driver can cause the death of dozens of people (check out big cities such as Istanbul and Ankara; the overwhelming majority obeys the rules, they stop at red lights and they do not drive in the emergency lane but a small minority who violates the rules, skips red lights and drives dangerously unfortunately become the main determinant). 

It is important that all the people driving every day on inter-city roads are responsible. But this is not enough by itself. The public authority that sets the traffic rules and then implements them also has a very serious role. 

With the building of double highways all around the country, yes, the risk of certain types of accidents has decreased but on the other hand, the average speed on the roads has increased. This has brought certain risks alongside and it continues to bring them. 

Meanwhile, we should also realize that the number of vehicles in the country has increased; holiday mobility is not limited to big and relatively rich cities such as Istanbul and Ankara anymore but it is much more widespread and thus the high-risk routes have increased in numbers. 

The figure in the title is not a wish. I hope much less people die on the roads this Bayram. This is my Bayram wish.