In 2015, Lebanon had 4300 car accidents leading to more than 500 casualties, most of which (around 34%) were in the 15 – 29 age bracket. Most of those car accidents were not because of malfunctions but because those driving did not respect the rules.
A recent report on French TV M6 showed the extent to which Lebanese drivers just couldn’t care. It’s a sign of “strength” to disregard traffic laws (or any law for that matter), build cars that are a safety hazard for anyone involved, flex driving muscles with with utter disregard to any other person around you or even with you in the car. As they note, the rate of deaths from car accidents in the country if extrapolated to France’s population would be around 15,500 deaths per year.
I noticed this firsthand when I drove extensively in the United States recently. It may come as a surprise to many, but we actually have a lot of the same regulations as they do: yielding on certain exits or when entering roundabouts, stop signs, lanes meant to turn left only or go straight only, etc… The difference is in the United States you’d get into so much trouble if you don’t respect those laws while Lebanon empowers your law breaking capacities.
One of the bigger driving problems, further exacerbated by the fact laws are not applied and our driving mentalities are as rotten as they come, is drunk driving. Alcohol driving limits are never enforced. Driving under the influence is never taken seriously. Assigning a designated driver to your parties is seen as a sign of weakness. In summary, it’s the norm to drink beyond the point of getting wasted and then (attempt to) drive home.
Over the past few years, Kunhadi has been doing what the Lebanese government isn’t and that is try, to the best of their capacities, to enforce some form of traffic law in the country. This is why they are among my favorite NGOs in this country and I tend to support them as often as I can. The number of lives they’ve saved over the past decade by making sure the youth they encounter become aware of their driving shortcomings are astounding.
To that effect, with the holidays coming up, Kunhadi is launching another step in trying to prevent Lebanese youth from drinking and driving and that is through an app they’re calling Flügen Rides. The app is not an uber-like service, but rather an aggregate of different taxi companies and drivers who were trained by Kunhadi.
For 3 weekends starting December 16, Flügen cabs will be parked inside Jounieh pubs street, and will be available for free there. To those who came using their own cars but choose to go back home with Flügen so as not to risk their lives with driving under the influence of alcohol or fatigue, Kunhadi will offer a free ride back to pick up cars the next day.
Flügen Rides will also offer special wheelchair-equipped vehicles and is the first service in Lebanon to do so. The drivers and companies offering services in the app will also be periodically monitored by Kunhadi to make sure they’re up to the required qualifications.
Kudos to Kunhadi for being so proactive in trying to fix as much as they can fix in a system that is becoming, daily, broken beyond repair. It’s just heartbreaking, to be honest, than an NGO has to revert to such extraordinary measures to try and get Lebanese youth to actually care about their lives, and the repercussions those have on their loved ones, in the first place. I wonder, what does that say about us and the culture we perpetuate by not caring about any rules and about ourselves to begin with?