Speed bumps — the latest issue of contention in Lebanon
Written by Malek   

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By Gulf News - Joseph A. Kechichian, Senior Writer

Beirut: Notoriously undisciplined drivers in Lebanon loathe the many speed bumps on public roads, which various municipalities erected to cut down on accidents, many of which tend to be fatal. A recent memo from the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation ordered their removal, allegedly because they were established illegally, which sparked heated debates among road safety organisations. In one of his first decisions, Minister Yusuf Fenianos issued an official memo to all provincial governors in which he stated that it was imperative “to remove bumps from public roads since they violate the law and endanger citizens’ safety as well as distort the roads.”

It was unclear how these speed bumps violated the law although many guessed that the real reason for the rebuke was to revert the decision-making back to the central bureaucracy, away from local authorities. Equally troubling was the overall neglect to safety given that everyone acknowledged the bumps forced irresponsible drivers to reduce their car’s speed, especially in mountainous areas where winding roads did not allow for fast circulation.

According to Joe Daccache, vice-president of the road safety organisation YASA International, speed bumps can be dangerous when placed on highways and contribute to more accidents. He told a local newspaper that engineering studies were required to determine where they ought to be “located and placed — for example, near schools, hospitals, pedestrian crossings or even construction sites” — and that clear warning signs ought to be posted, too.

Although Lebanon has various speed limit zones, the reality is something else, especially since few traffic cops dare stop those who ignore the law. Most drivers speed recklessly and invent additional lanes at will, which effectively translate into four or five traffic lanes where space limits it to two or three.

According to the latest Global Status Report on Road Safety, published by the World Health Organisation, data published in 2015, road traffic accidents deaths in Lebanon reached 1,088, or about 5 per cent of total deaths. In fact, the age-adjusted Death Rate in the country is 20 per 100,000 of the entire population that ranks Lebanon Number 84 in the world, just ahead of Columbia.

Iran and Iraq top this list with 44 and 41 per 100,000, respectively.

In Lebanon, only heart attacks and strokes cause more deaths than car crashes each year, which is the chief reason that local municipalities install speed bumps. The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation may however be justified to intervene to ensure that these barriers meet specific standards — in terms of width and height — as well as avoid damage to vehicles or riders, even if everyone acknowledges that they save lives.

Because of the country’s mountainous geography, which makes it appear to be far larger than it actually is, blind intersections abound that necessitate speed bumps to avoid a car crashes and death. For George Karam, a young university student in love with his car, “The bumps slow me down and though I do not like them, I try to dawdle around them not to damage my vehicle.” He told Gulf News that speeding was a thrill he truly enjoyed. “We are unruly drivers,” he affirmed, “but we are also skilled and try to be careful.”