BEIRUT: The tragic death of Zghorta’s mayor in a car accident Thursday highlights how widespread traffic violations are routinely killing the Lebanese, according to experts.
Driving his Audi Q7 along the Karantina highway Thursday dawn, Toufik Mouawad was surprised when a Sukleen truck appeared from nowhere parked on the side of the road. His car slammed into the rear of the truck and was caught underneath.
The truck in question was in violation of Lebanon’s new traffic law, passed in November 2012, as it lacked an underride guard rail, metal barriers attached to the back of a truck to prevent a crashing car from sliding beneath the vehicle.
Joe Daccache, the vice president of YASA International, said that traffic safety organizations had been calling to equip trucks with the rails since 1997.
“Since last year, we have lost about 200 people due to these kinds of accidents. This is unacceptable,” Daccache said about Mouawad’s death.
“The manner in which the two vehicles collided guaranteed that the driver was dealt the most shock, since his front window bumped into the edge of the truck,” he explained.
“An [underride guard rail] would have caused the shock to disperse over the front of the car, probably saving the driver’s life,” he added.
An ambulance rushed to the scene of the accident and pulled Mouawad, out of the wrecked vehicle.
He was taken to the nearby Haddad Hospital where he died due to his injuries.
“Regardless of the speed in which Mouawad was driving, in the absence of an [underride guard rail], death was nearly inescapable,” Daccache said.
Road traffic accidents are among the main causes of death in Lebanon.
The country’s government has suffered from inefficient traffic planning, and related issues haunt the average citizen’s daily routine.
Endorsed by Parliament around two years ago, red tape and corruption have prevented the full implementation of the traffic bill, Daccache said.
Because of the high number of trucks entering Lebanon daily for trade, the section of the new law requiring guard rails was considered an obstacle, Daccache explained.
Also, many companies have argued that the guard rails are impractical for releasing loads, hence they discarded them completely.
“We have no authority to impose the law, but we attempt to cooperate with companies that own big numbers of trucks from one side, and push the government to hasten the law’s implementation from the other,” said the traffic expert, who is also the president of the Lebanese Association for School Safety Awareness.
Companies as big as Sukleen, he said, must at least respect such basic safety standards as installing the shock absorbers.
Another excuse that businesses give for not abiding by this article of the traffic law was the additional cost they entailed.
But Daccache argued that it costs very little to install the rails if they are made from inexpensive metal.
“We’re talking about some tens of dollars that could save lives,” he said.
“Today we lost Mouawad, who is a good friend and one of the best mayors to cooperate with YASA.”