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Traffic Lights, a choice or an obligation?

Traffic Lights, a choice or an obligation?

At an intersection a traffic light turns red, signaling drivers to stop, but a woman in a black SUV continues across the road in defiance of the light, driving past a policeman who exasperatedly slams his fist against the hood of her car. Still she does not stop; she simply keeps driving, and the officer laughingly shakes his head in frustration. You would think this is in movies, but this is the case that happens most of the times and on many intersections.

People still think and consider that traffic lights are a relatively new sight on the streets of Beirut outside Beirut Central District. Most traffic lights are relatively new since they have only been installed there since 2008, and judging by the amount of policeman manning the lights it has not been a smooth adjustment.

The existence of policemen at intersections after this time brings up a range of questions that many people keep talking about.  It is certain that many people do obey but we cannot deny the fact that we still have those who do not stop and even sound the horn when someone in front of them stops at the red light preventing them of passing.

According to Police officials, there will always be personnel at the intersections to monitor many other issues and until the people are used to proper behavior at the lights. 

Most policemen comment about the lack of respect that most people show them and how they tell them to perform the job better.  Many people blame the policeman and yell at him while he is trying to do his work.

Joe Daccache, YASA member confirms that law enforcement could play a stricter role in reducing the chaos at intersections by giving more tickets to drivers who disobey lights.  The fines, which are set at around LL50,000, are too lenient, he said, “and compared to France or the US, where the fine can be about 500 euros or dollars, this is too low.”

Policemen are reluctant to issue fines due to the pressure they get from higher grades when they do so along with the fact that if they have to stop to take the license plate number this would mean they have to leave the intersection which would lead to chaos.

However, the public appears to be getting gradually used to traffic lights since they were first installed in 2008. While no official statistics are available from the official sources or YASA, Daccache estimates that the rate of compliance has jumped from 20 percent roughly a year ago to 75 percent today, with the most common offenders being of the two-wheeled type.  “If you just stand at a light for an hour, you’ll see only one or two motorcycles actually stopping at the lights,” Daccache said.

As per road users interviewed they believed that the public was aware that traffic lights are effective and wanted to use them, because “many have gone abroad and seen how they work in other countries however what is lacking is the fear from the law.

Moreover as very few of the current drivers have received proper law education, very few know that the directions of a policeman supersedes the lights so they tend to criticize the police who tries during peak to ease the traffic.

As per the ISF officials the solution to the intersection and traffic lights is the installation of a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras which would allow the police to monitor traffic from a centralized unit and hence help those on the ground.

As part of the Urban Transport Development Project, sponsored by the government and the World Bank, the technology of the CCTV monitoring will be done on 220 intersections in Greater Beirut Area.  However this is something that all the Lebanese have been hearing about for long now and have not yet seen the implementation that would help the road users and ease the traffic.

With all these expectations, and the traffic officers remain skeptical to the fact that there would be any reduction to number of personnel on intersections. This would only be proven with time and with the implementation of the law.

What remains a must is to have all traffic lights properly functioning and the people fearing the fine being sent to them to have the respect of traffic lights or in other words to have traffic lights being obeyed.

Reference: The Daily star, YASA Team 

Lebanon , Traffic Law

Date: 3/1/2010 10:50:53 AM

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