Oct 26, 2012

Traffic system in Duhok needs improvements

A Kurdish police officer raises his hand next to a vehicle that has just been in a total accident./PRESS PHOTO

The Kurdish Globe
By Shvan Goran

Car accidents are now becoming the major factor behind the deaths of hundreds of people and leaving many others injured and handicapped in Kurdistan Region.
The Traffic Police suggest that the driving license policy needs to be changed, punishments made harder against drivers who violate the traffic law and traffic police allowed to have more authority and rights. Others claim that the lack of drivers, awareness and the bad condition of the main roads are the major factors. Most of the accidents, as a traffic police officer says, are on the main roads. The reasons behind this are speeding, using mobile phones while driving, overtaking on one-sided roads and drivers, impatience.

Driving license system needs changes

On a hot and sunny day, tens of people are gathered in front of the gate, waiting until their names are called by the traffic police in order to do their driving test.

One of the individuals is getting in the car nervously as he is about to attempt the test for the third after failing to obtain his license twice before. "When you just get in the car, you feel like the entire world is staring at you and observing you." said Farooq Abdul-Jabbar, a young man who was in the last stages of getting a driving license. "The first time I tried the test, my feet couldn't stop trembling, I was very nervous" said Abdul-Jabbar, speaking as if he was on the outset of a horrible adventure, because as he says, driving a car has become a real adventure nowadays.

In the Kurdistan Region, anyone who is over 18 years can get a driver license after passing several theoretical and practical tests. The theoretical tests are about basic functions of several parts of cars, traffic signs and the cost of fines, in case someone breaks the traffic law. As for the practical tests which are the most fearful aspect for applicants, they consist of two stages. It depends on the drivers, accuracy as they drive through narrow and curved lines that have an 8 -- like shape.

During the 5-day course, a police officer instructs applicants and teaches them traffic signs. "The courses which are supposed to be one hour were only 15 minutes long." claims Abdul-Jabbar; he says that only traffic signs are explained but nothing else in regard to drivers" behavior on the roads and their treatment of other drivers and pedestrians.

Azad Taha, Director of Media at Duhok Police Traffic Directorate told The Kurdish Globe in an interview that the system for obtaining a driving license in Duhok is still the classical one; he claims that the system is in vital need of development and has to be changed and organized according to certain points. "Before giving a driver a license, his background should be taken into consideration" Taha said, suggesting that when someone is trying to obtain a driving license, his point should be counted throughout the year after giving him a temporary license. So when he or she makes a mistake or breaks the traffic law, he will lose points and will not be able to get the permanent license. He says that even if this is not implemented, drivers who have violated the traffic law can be exposed to tough conditions while their licenses wait renewal. Taha says that the system for obtaining a driving license is easy, and most drivers neglect the instructions they--re given in the courses after getting their license.

According to Duhok Directorate of Traffic Police, 2250 people were taken to courts because of unlicensed driving in Duhok Province this year, most of whom where young people whose parents had allowed them to drive cars. But as the directorate claims, there are few car accidents in which unlicensed drivers are involved.

The driving license system followed in Duhok is still the classical one; but in Hawler and Slemany the system is replaced with the so called "Korean System" which is observed by computers instead of human.

Absence of public transportation

Most people are using their own private cars when they want to travel to other cities amid the absence of a modern public transportation system in Duhok province. This issue has caused a bigger load on the main roads which subsequently leads to more accidents.

"Sometimes I have to wait hours on the pavements till I can get a taxi to return home from Duhok or vise versa." says Ali Saeed, a man from Bardarash district. Saeed claims that there aren't any official or modern taxi stations to transport passengers from Duhok to other cities and districts, this reason and others make people use their own private cars when they travel to other cities and town. "Private cars are working as taxies, some of the cars are old and uncomfortable" Saeed complains, adding that even those cars are not available all the time.

Inadequate streets as car numbers increasing

As the Kurdistan Region's economy booms, many car companies are selling their products by installments to the Regions, citizens, for this reason even limited income people can own a car nowadays, causing the heavy traffic in the cities and the main roads.

Azad Taha, Director of Media at Duhok Police Traffic Directorate says that the traffic police have been the victim of the constant increase of cars in Kurdistan Region. He claims that many families may have three or more cars. In addition to that, large numbers of tourists from other parts of Iraq visit Duhok province by their cars, which makes the traffic situation even worse.

"Large numbers of cars are imported into the Region, the government should also think about modernizing the roads and widening them so that they are suitable for the heavy traffic" says Sarkaft Mohammad, a taxi driver. He complained about a lack of parking lots in Duhok city, saying that he has to park his car on the streets most of the time.

"The government should oblige the people who open hotels and restaurants to build parking lots along with as well" suggests Taha. He says that Duhok has very few parking lots. 'When drivers try to park on the streets, the police prevent them, which is why they often quarrel with traffic police" he told the Globe.

Regarding the quality of these cars, from the beginning of next year and on, only the cars that are due to Iraqi standards are allowed in to Kurdistan Region. "Every car company should have checking certificates along with the cars they--re importing; otherwise they--re not allowed to bring in the cars." said Director of Measurement and Quality Control in Duhok province, Abdul Khaliq Abdul Sattar, explaining that the Iraqi qualities are of internationally acceptable standards.

According to the latest statistics of Duhok Traffic Police Directorate, 505 car accidents have occurred since January this year, causing the death of 101 people and 543 injuries in Duhok province.

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