Citizens warned of crashes as millions to flock to roads for 'bayram'

Citizens warned of crashes as millions to flock to roads for 'bayram'

ISTANBUL - Anadolu Agency
Citizens warned of crashes as millions to flock to roads for bayram

Two men are protected by seatbelts in an accident simulation car, which was brought to Ankara’s bus terminal to raise awareness about traffic safety ahead of the 'bayram' vacation. AA photo

Turkey will see staggering numbers of people traveling during this year's traditional "bayram" holiday, as an estimated 7 million travelers – equal to the population of Switzerland – are set to take to the roads and skies to visit their families.

However, as the feast to mark the end of Ramadan gets closer, both the government and experts have issued warnings on travel safety for drivers and passengers.

Departures to prepare for the feast have already begun, with many additional flights and bus services scheduled for the holiday, which will start July 28 and end July 30, due to excess demand. Turkey’s Bus Drivers’ Federation has said it expects nearly 7 million people to travel to their hometowns to celebrate the holiday.

Both Ramadan and the Feast of the Sacrifice are the peak seasons for accidents to occur. Last year, road accidents during the Feast of the Sacrifice left more than 110 dead and injured over 620 people.

Mehmet Timur is a 41-year-old victim of a crash in Istanbul in 2008. “I did not only lose my leg; I lost my wife, my family and my job” Timur said, adding that he lost his wife at the scene and went into a coma for 11 days after the accident.

“It was a nine-day holiday and, taking advantage of the opportunity, we planned to visit our families in [the Black Sea province of] Ordu. We preferred to travel with our own car and I was going to drive throughout the journey as we had planned,” he said.

“However, I felt sleepy. I knew I should have asked my wife to drive, but I kept driving. It was around 3:00 a.m. and I fell asleep while driving. The last thing I remember is tumbling down the cliff,” Timur added.

Not unusual

His story is not uncommon in Turkey. According to the both the Turkish Traffic Safety Association and the Suat Ayoz Traffic Victims’ Association, driving at high-speeds and falling asleep at the wheel are the main causes of crashes across the country.

“Traffic accidents do not just happen as a result of destiny; ignorance and laxity are the fatal errors people make,” said Yeşim Ayoz, founder of Suat Ayoz Traffic Victims’ Association.

“Some 26 out of 100 people who die in traffic accidents are children. One out of every 11 families is a victim of traffic accidents. We are destroying our future,” Ayoz added.

Claiming more lives than terrorist attacks in the country, “traffic terror” can only be tamed with education, he said. “We need zero tolerance against those who violate traffic rules. Simply obeying red lights can save thousands of lives," he said.

According to the World’s Health Organization, nearly 3,400 people die in traffic accidents every day across the world. In Turkey, TurkStat statistics say that around 12 people die in traffic accidents every day.

Despite fines and sentences on traffic violations, speeding is still one of the main driving offenses in Turkey. Over 3,500 people died in more than 160,000 accidents in 2013, a decline of 6.8 percent compared to 2012, a 2014 Türkstat report said.

Timur, who had been working as math teacher in a private school before the accident, is now supporting himself as a tutor. Stating that the seat belt saved his life, he said his wife did not fasten hers before the accident.

“This is the biggest regret of my life; driving while tired was an absurd idea. How could I do something like that? The only thing I can say to drivers is to be very careful,” Timur said.