We went by bus from Aswan to Abu Simbel – about a five hour drive that
took three. We gathered in the dawn in a convoy of about 40 buses (to
deter terrorists) and proceeded to Abu Simbel at a clip of 150 to
160kms, being frequently overtaken by other buses at considerably
higher speeds on a two lane road with sand blown across. The driver (we
were sitting in the front right seat) was mostly driving with one hand
and sometimes two knees as he demolished a 500g bag of pumpkin seeds on
the way – at least he was sober (I think). Great trip though.

Crikey reporter Sophie Black writes:

The Egyptian bus crash is a stark reminder that road safety is a
serious concern in many low and middle income countries – and Egypt is
among the worst examples.

About 6,000 people
in a population of 77 million die each year on Egypt’s roads. For every
100 million kilometres driven, 43.2 people die in Egypt – compared with 0.9 in
Australia. DFAT
says that road travel, “particularly at night and outside the major
cities can be dangerous as cars, buses and trucks frequently drive
without headlights and at high speed.”

The country’s scarred roads are pockmarked with potholes, have hardly any clear road signage and lack barriers separating traffic moving in opposite directions. The Egyptian road network extends
over 45,000km – 25,000km of these roads are overseen by the Ministry
of Transportation but the rest are maintained by local authorities, and
it’s on these local roads, which are nearly always in a poor state of
repair, where half of Egypt’s accidents occur.

But it’s driver
error which accounts for the vast majority of Egypt’s estimated 28,000
road accidents every year. According to Egypt’s National Council for
Road Safety, three out of every four accidents are caused by speeding,
driver negligence, unpredictable lane changing or dangerous overtaking.

Abdel-Moneim Gaber, a member of Egypt’sNational Council for Road Safety, told Egypt’s Al Ahram
in 2004 that neither drivers nor pedestrians are aware of road traffic
codes. The NCRS are lobbying for a “Three E System”: educate, engineer
and enforce, which would include a traffic ticket points system, a
little like our demerit point system here.

Parking problems
contribute to the chaos. “The pavements are intentionally high to
prevent cars from parking on them,” said Gaber. “The problem is that in
designing much of these modern roads we are dealing with streets that
fall within the boundaries of old Cairo. The first traffic law during
the reign of Mohamed Ali, when many of these maps were drafted, states
that the roads should be as wide as two camels walking in opposite
directions while carrying their cargo. And so all we can do is extend
vertically in terms of underground tunnels and bridges.”

But appalling road safety is not a uniquely Egyptian problem. According to the Global Road Safety website, road traffic crashes rank as the 11th
leading cause of death globally, killing nearly 1.2 million people
every year – an average of 3,242 people every day – and injuring or
disabling 20-50 million people a year.