BENGHAZI, LIBYA 5/30/2011 – The “Traffic Officers’ Friends” program, founded in 2004, promotes awareness of traffic laws and safety. Formed by Mahmoud Elhasi after he was disabled in a car accident, the group travels across Libya, including a stint in Tripoli in 2008, handing out leaflets to drivers and pedestrians in an effort to educate them on traffic and travel best practices.
Three months ago, a group of boys took up this work in Benghazi. Staking out high-traffic areas near the court house, these boys hand out leaflets, participate in various ceremonies, and even help coordinate traffic during high profile visits by “presidents and representatives.”
Alive in Libya talks with these boys about their work, and how the Traffic Officers’ Friends program came to be.
Driving in Libya can be hazardous, and there is a high accident rate. Police enforcement of traffic laws is rare. As a result, it is often difficult to anticipate the actions of other drivers on Libyan streets and highways. Wind-blown sand can reduce visibility without warning. Road conditions are poor, and public transportation, which is limited to occasional bus service, is poor. Taxis are available, but many taxi drivers are reckless and untrained, and English-speaking drivers are extremely rare. The sidewalks in urban areas are often in bad condition and cluttered, but pedestrians are able to use them.
There are about 83,200 km of roads in Libya, 47,590 km of which are surfaced. 234 out of 1000 Libyans have cars, which is the highest rate in Africa. The best roads run along the coast between Tripoli and Tunis in Tunisia; also between Benghazi and Tobruk, connecting with Alexandria in Egypt.
Libya has two routes in the Trans-African Highway network, but only one currently functions as such, the Cairo-Dakar Highway.
It is very sad to note that so many people die or receive multiple injuries in fatal road accidents, forcing several people of productive age group either dead or disabled permanently. The number is growing year after year in multiple proportions and it is highly alarming and also disheartening.