The land transport fleet in Lebanon consists of more than 1.5 million registered vehicles. The lack of an efficient, reliable and wide public transport system has necessitated a reliance and eventual dependence on the personal car as the main means of transport within the country. The rate of car ownership of 2.7 persons for every car is amongst the highest in the world (Choueiri et al., 2010). Thus, car dependency in Lebanon drains the economic system of wealth and natural resources, encourages the reduction of the standard and quantity of public social area in cities, creates sprawl and far-flung sub-urbanization, and destroys culture. It’s quickly turning into recognized as a world, social and environmental problem.
Driving in Lebanon can be an adventure, and most accidents that happen on the streets of Lebanon are caused by irresponsible driving, and negligence on the part of drivers as well as pedestrians. Many will agree that driving two ways on a one-way street, driving against traffic even on major roads, and driving large (cargo) trucks that carry everything from livestock to petroleum, uncontrollably, with no regard to anyone else on the road, are all habits that most likely result in some sort of accident. A lot of drivers and pedestrians in Lebanon does not show respect for the law and simply do as they please; yet they get furious when they have an accident and blame the officials for not forcing the rules. This, in most of the cases, does not make sense. True, there are other factors that result in people getting into road-related incidents, such as unfit road structures, poorly planned street designs, and more largely the poor condition of a considerable number of vehicles running the streets of Lebanon. Other unreasonable behavior includes an excessive use of the horn, and a fabulously cavalier approach to parking. It should be noted that a lot of drivers in Lebanon lack acceptable traffic education, possess a driver’s license but without having ever been subjected to a proper road test as we see in developed countries, do not undergo strict medical supervision and mandatory periodic examination of their eyesight and health. As it stands now, drivers, pedestrians, and unorthodox vehicles have to compete for the same badly maintained and poorly designed roads; agitation, frustration, and various deliberate obstructions, obscene gestures and verbal abuse are commonplace, and this, in turn, spawns incidents ranging from often extreme acts of aggression, physical assault and of course road traffic accidents.
Deaths and injuries sustained in traffic accidents in Lebanon generate enormous medical costs, estimated by some sources at almost 2% of the Gross National Product (GNP), or 750 million U.S. Dollars (Choueiri et al., 2010). This amount poses a significant financial burden on the economy of a country where a sizeable proportion of the population lives below the poverty line of less than $15 per day.
In the following, a review of the problem of road traffic accidents (RTA) in Lebanon in 2011 is presented. The review concerns 4447 accidents in 2011, which resulted in 508 fatalities and 6040 injuries at the scene of the accident, as reported by the Internal Security Forces (ISF, 2011)
There is a need to strictly and continuously enforce traffic laws on all citizens and a need for a neutral body to evaluate the efficiency of the vehicle inspection standards to confirm that they comply with international inspection standards.
Citizens, on the other hand, should abide by the traffic laws and regulations and should understand the state’s reduced capabilities and try to cope with the situation. They should not speed or jeopardize their own life or the life of others because of their recklessness and then blame the government for it.
According to Ziad Akl, the founder of Yasa(2010), ‘88% of accidents result from driver error while the remaining 12% are a matter of fate.” This means that 88% of accidents could have been avoided if the mistake hadn’t been made as a result of excessive speed, drunken driving, failure to obey traffic laws and traffic lights, or driving on the wrong side of the road.
Furthermore, our aim is to reduce traffic accidents to a minimum level by imposing laws and regulations, raising people’s awareness of the resulting damage and losses and training children on proper traffic behavior. A good citizen enjoys a traffic-educated personality and sets an example for others.
No one can ignore the efforts of the Traffic, Trucks and Vehicles Management Authority at the Ministry of the Interior which is concerned with the implementation of traffic laws and regulations though these efforts can never lead to the desired results in terms of reducing traffic accidents unless they are supported by a government strategy that gives priority to plans in order to reduce the death rate on the roads.
In conclusion, reversing the lack of road safety culture in Lebanon is one of the major challenges that Lebanese governments face in their efforts to make the roads safer to drive on. Indeed, attitudes toward speeding, changing lanes without warning, dangerous overtaking, tailgating, mobile phone usage whilst driving, and ignoring traffic lights in many instances are only a few of the issues that the Lebanese government needs to address in order to keep the roads safer. In the meantime, efforts ought to be made to establish well-equipped trauma centers; suitable means of transfer of injured patients by ambulance from the accident scene to these facilities are also of paramount importance, because many patients develop serious irreversible damage during inappropriate and unsafe transfer. In addition, reliable traffic accident data are important in order to understand how road safety interventions and technology can be successfully transferred from other countries where they have proven to be effective (Habibzadeh, 2012).