TRIPOLI, Lebanon: More road accidents are expected to take place in Lebanon, the secretary-general of YASA International told The Daily Star Friday, after a devastating crash between a commuter mini-bus and a truck claimed four lives.
“Car accidents increase in summers,” Kamel Ibrahim, told The Daily Star, because of a spike in commuters. “According to my understanding, accidents will also increase this year and the next.”
The accident on the Minjiz-Akkar road in north Lebanon also injured 23. Seventeen were hospitalized and later released.
Among the fatalities was the driver of the mini-bus Naaman Hasan Ibrahim, who hails from the northern village of Akroum, Marwa al-Ali and Fatmeh Diab, security sources said.
The sources said the truck driver fled after the 7 a.m. accident, which occurred after the mini-bus crashed into the truck from behind.
The accident comes two weeks after the tragic death of Zghorta Mayor Toufik Mouawad, whose car slammed into the rear of a Sukleen truck. The truck happened to be in violation of Lebanon’s new traffic law, passed in November 2012, as it did not have an underride guard rail, metal barriers attached to the back of a truck to prevent a crashing car from sliding under the vehicle.
According to Ibrahim, the new traffic law was not being implemented seriously. There were many traffic violations, including disregarding seatbelts and speaking on the mobile phone while driving, which are seldom penalized. Speeding was also a large problem, he said, and pervasive in Lebanon.
“The main problem today is that there is no team at the Interior Ministry to deal seriously with traffic laws,” he added.
Many mini-buses, which are privately owned, are known to not abide by traffic laws and are not supervised by the Transportation Ministry, Ibrahim said.
And while Friday’s accident garnered a lot of attention from the media, Ibrahim stressed that it was only because the number of dead and injured was significant.
Car accidents happen every day in Lebanon. “Some accidents are highlighted by the media, but they happen daily in Lebanon,” he said.
Another accident on the Kfar Hazir-Chekka road in north Lebanon Friday killed a priest, identified as Father Agapios, after his car was overturned.
The problem, Ibrahim said, was that the government was not prioritizing the issue and has not taken measures to improve road safety in the country. “The government has not shed light on this comprehensively,” he said, adding that the chaos resulting from traffic law violations mirrors the chaos within the state.
“In my opinion, they are not aware of the problem and are not giving it priority.”
Ibrahim also pointed out that the government’s main concern at the moment was preventing the spate of suicide bombings and car explosions in Lebanon, but that was no excuse to ignore road accidents, as they too resulted in deaths.
“We have never seen any efforts to [prevent] accidents,” he said.
While the Traffic Management Center, which was launched last year and works with the support of the Interior Ministry, has gained significant popularity through its work on curbing traffic accidents, more still needed to be done, Ibrahim said.