Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Daily Insanity

I don’t want this to be a rant but it will probably come like one anyway. I am talking about Cambodian truck and overland coach (Capitol, Rith Mony, Mekong, etc.) drivers. It is a well-known fact that Cambodians in general don’t have a clue that traffic rules and regulations actually help. They were not passed to deprive people of their cherished freedom. They were passed to make it safer for everybody. People who just comply with the most basic of the rules will or would survive even the most chaotic traffic conditions. I understand there are even worse places than Cambodia, e. g. India, Egypt, and others. Traffic fatalities prove the point. They have been on the rise every year for the past decade or so.

But the worst are the truck and bus drivers. They pass without regard to whether or not the road ahead is clear, or whether there is a curve about 100 m ahead. It appears as if they don’t want to lose the speed they are traveling at at that given moment, perhaps they are afraid it will take a bit until they reach that speed again once they had to brake down. How do those head-on collisions happen? Let’s say a passenger car is going at 100 km/h on a clear stretch of road; there is a slight curve ahead and, whoa, going into that curve they are all of sudden faced with a bus or truck coming their way passing another large vehicle. The good thing, of course, is that the truck can still flash his lights to tell you, ‘Hey, careful I am coming.’ I have seen at least three accidents like this myself. The result: the people in the passenger car are smashed to pulp; the truck veers off the highway and ends up in a ditch. If the driver survives with only a few scratches, chances are that he will take off and vanish in the bushes.

I drive from my little town about 20 km from  Sihanoukville to the hotel almost every day. That road is very narrow going through villages along the road; they are really nothing more than an accumulation of wooden shacks. But whole families with kids and dogs live there and it actually quite crowded in certain places. If that road is 10 m wide it is big. It seems to be a hobby for those drivers to go through these villages at the highest speed possible. Something is in their way? Honk, honk! They just stare straight ahead shutting out the world left and right of them. If they are fully loaded with, say, cement, they can’t go fast, but if they are empty, breakneck speed is the motto. The road in some places is a little hilly. They come barreling downhill like there is no tomorrow, sometimes with a trailer at that. Sure enough, they are on the phone at the same time with only one hand on the steering wheel. If there ever were an obstacle and they had to brake down, that trailer truck would jackknife and any oncoming motorbike and its rider would be history.

Observing this really makes one wonder whether something is wrong genetically with Cambodian people. The minute they get on a motorbike or into a car/truck they seemingly change into a different personality. Does anybody have another explanation for this?

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