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What Ails Our Drivers?

What Ails Our Drivers?What Ails Our Drivers?

L ess than a week ago Hamid Reza Kamali, a national auto racing champion, was killed in a deadly traffic collision along with five other passengers in Tehran. This is sadly not the first time for a motor accident to cost the life of a talented figure in Iran.

The first driving accident of a famous personality goes back to 1926 when a car crashed with the carriage of Darvish Khan, a well-known Iranian Tar (string instrument), player in Sepah Street of old Tehran. As the number of motor vehicles increased since then, traffic accidents became an intrinsic part of everyday life making Iran one of the top countries in road fatalities per capita, Fararu News Agency reported.  

The rate of road accidents and their ensuing human and financial loss is alarming. According to national statistics, the economic cost of traffic accidents is huge - 200 trillion rials ($6 billion) per year for 15 million registered vehicles.

Human error in vehicle collision is numerous and includes driver’s behavior, visual and auditory acuity, decision-making ability, and speed of reaction. A factor dubbed as ‘lack of driving culture’ has repeatedly been floated by the media. It raises the question: what is the proper approach to address the problem?

 Exacerbating

Dr. Hassan Shahraki criticized the phrase ‘poor driving culture’ as inaccurate and hackneyed. “Culture has a broad meaning and using it as a specific term for driving is a typically journalistic approach to analyzing the situation, while ignoring the repercussions of its overuse,” he said.

When we say we aren’t ‘cultured’ in driving, we are victimizing the society; by repeating the expression we are training the collective Iranian psyche for rule-violation,” he said, and pondered “how then do Iranians abide by traffic regulations in a more developed or safety-conscious country within a short period of time, if they are rule evaders in truth?”

Shahraki said the “labeling theory in sociology explains how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them.” As such, if the media consistently defines a nation as lacking the driving etiquette, the population will abide by it as if that is true,” he pointed out.

In social psychology, attribution is the process by which individuals explain the causes of behavior and events. A case in point are quarrels that happen during the first few minutes after an accident as the blame game starts.

After a while, however, they realize other factors such as road design, traffic light malfunction, and technical problems of vehicles may have contributed to the outcome.

Taking stock of a series of situations and environmental factors or actions that affect driving etiquette, Shahraki said the problem lies also in the infrastructure of roads along with the ‘accepted social norms’.

“If a driver parks his car in an inappropriate slot due to lack of parking space, the resultant tension is a product of poor social structure and service,” he said, adding that psychological complexities also have adverse effects on driving.

Constructive changes such as removing potholes, building multi-storey car parks and widening narrow pathways, are among action that the authorities need  to take to reduce infrastructural factors contributing to road mishaps.

Financialtribune.com