by Gus Worth

A thousand deaths a year? Is that all? Nothing to worry about

Bang! And your life has changed forever. A loved one has been taken from you by the statistic that Bulgarians don't care about, the rampant killing that goes on by motorised maniacs. Imagine if you turned up at your workplace to find everyone was dead and also in every nearby workplace until the deathtoll reached 1,000. You would be shocked, horrified and angry and that is the area that annoys me most, Bulgarians don't get angry about the stupidity that passes for driving on their roads. Around 1,000 mothers, fathers, children, lovers and spouses will die this year, their bloody bodies spread around the roads, often when innocently trying to go about their business until some stupid fool decides he is Michael Schumacher.

The problem is not the crazy drivers, nor the bad roads, nor the corrupt system that allows driving licences to be bought; it is the apathy of the people. People say, “This is Bulgaria” and I say, “bullshit”. Bulgaria is the land of the token gesture, a cardboard police car, traffic cops in the same position all the time, workers throwing some indeterminate substance into the holes on the roads so that soon the hole becomes worse. Or power hungry politicians grabbing some headlines as they announce their latest dim-witted traffic measure like it is some game. The irritating thing is that everyone accepts it as a game. Absolutely nobody believes anybody will do anything about it.

Everyone holds up their hands and laughs at the “Pernik” drivers which, strangely, seem to come from every part of Bulgaria. Videos get passed around the Internet showing the lack of brainpower that occurs when Bulgarians get behind the wheel.

I am well aware that Bulgarians are lax when it comes to time-keeping, so why do they so unexpectedly get in a hurry when they are driving? What makes them care all of a sudden about getting somewhere on time?

I have a theory. Freedom, or more accurately the lack of it. It is the only place they can feel free, to be the big guy (and it is almost always guys) where nobody tells them what to do. Where they can “just do it” as Nike says. Years of colonialism and the centralised dictatorship called Communism have cowed the people. A bowed head doesn't get chopped off. But behind the wheel, in their own little world, none of that matters, they are king and invincible, 007 on a mission.

If my theory is right, then that needs to be the starting point of our own duty, to save you from the horror of the visit from the police saying that your loved one has died. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are constantly driving like maniacs. If we understand them and their motivations then we can look at ways of changing their behaviour.

We need to start really taking it seriously, no more token gestures. We need to change the attitude that nothing can be done, like we are in a Becket play.

Something can be done. The World Health Organisation list five ways to prevent traffic deaths: setting and enforcing speed limits; designing roads according to their function (e.g. highways, suburban roads); speed cameras or stationary enforcement; traffic calming measures, such as speed bumps and traffic circles; education and public information.

To that list, I would add that nobody shoud be able to buy a licence. I would move education to the top of the list, for the whole country. It is not a joke and we are not helpless. All of the WHO measures are here already but inflicted by tokenism. We need to get through to the people first that these deaths could be drastically reduced by getting serious.


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