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Road Safety Education, an Unresolved Issue in Panama

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EFE  | 11 Jun 2017 12.48pm

People who are risking their lives crossing highways on foot, overtaking vehicles on the right, buses that dangerously exceed the speed limits... This is all in the day on the roads in Panama, a country that has, in road safety education, one of its major pending issues.

"Since I've lived in Panama< i have not driven. I am afraid, people are very aggressive behind the steering wheel. Every time I go to take a taxi, I try to ride in a car with a seatbelt, but almost none have them in the rear," acknowledged to EFE a young European woman, who declined to give her name.

In this small Central American country 440 people died last year in different traffic accidents, almost 20 more than in 2015. A not inconsiderable amount taking into account the fact that Panama is a country of just over 4 million inhabitants.

So far this year, the figure already exceeds 200 people, according to the data of the transit authority (ATTT).

The spokesman for the Movement of Victims of Violence Vial of Panama, Toribio Diaz, said in statements to EFE that the case of traffic accidents in Panama should be called "acts of violence" and that the knowledge of Panamanian society on how traffic works is "null".

"Most of the victims are young people under the age of 30 years and this is due to the poor training and preparation they receive in driving schools (driving schools)," said Diaz.

The association seeks, among other things, that there is certainty of punishment and that penalties be stiffened from 8 to 15 years for those drivers who cause fatal accidents by driving under the influence of alcohol or speeding.

"Wrongful death by aggravating circumstances have a ridiculous sentence of between 3 and 5 years. Our criminal code punishes more to a person who has stolen a cow (livestock theft has a penalty of between 8 and 10 years) than someone who kills another person for driving at 160 kilometers per hour", said the activist.

Looking at road mortality data, the situation is particularly bloody conflict for pedestrians, as deaths from abuse represent almost half of the total victims. Of the 440 deaths that took place last year, 196 were abuses, compared to 177 in 2015. So far this year, at least 68 pedestrians have lost their lives, according to data of the ATTT.

The director of Road Safety Education and defense of the user of the institution, David Ramirez, said in an interview with Acan-Efe that has succeeded in reducing the mortality rate among motorcyclists and cyclists, as these represent only 3 % of the total deaths, but admitted that the overwhelming number of pedestrians remains worrying.

"With motor cyclists we got it thanks to many campaigns to raise awareness about the use of helmets. Our strategy with pedestrians is focused in the schools because children are all pedestrians," Ramirez said.

The official explained that the ATTT has an agreement signed with the Ministry of Education (MEDUCA) and since the start of the current Administration of Government, in July 2014, she teaches the basic concepts of road safety education in some schools of primary education.

The goal, he added, is to turn children into the police of their own parents, so that they end up saying "Dad we will cross over the pedestrian crossing".

For the association of victims, there are "too many" factors that explain the high numbers of abuses, among which are the little signals, the lack of sidewalks and traffic lights, and the limited public transport, which would help to all vehicle lights to decongest the streets.

"Efforts are very isolated, but there is no legal mandate to promote road safety education in schools and public institutions. You need a real state policy that cannot be changed by the various governments," concluded the president of the victims.

http://www.telemetro.com/nacionales/educacion-vial-asignatura-pendiente-Panama_0_1034596883.html

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Many Panamanians seem determined to keep killing themselves and endangering the lives of others with erratic and inconsiderate driving behaviours.

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On 6/12/2017 at 7:21 AM, Keith Woolford said:

Many Panamanians seem determined to keep killing themselves and endangering the lives of others with erratic and inconsiderate driving behaviours.

Keith,

The subject of driving habits and skills has obviously grabbed your attention. This topic and the "road carnage" topic are testimony to the need to make things better. For you to post your words here, which are uncharacteristically sharp for you, tells me that you are really concerned.

I concur with you. We (Marcelyn and I) have seen on more than one occasion cars (and motorcycles) literally racing at extreme speeds on Calle Principal here in Boquete. And cars driving on the wrong side of the street. And cars not even slowing down, much less stopping at stop signs, and, and, and, .... You get my drift. I don't want to come across as a "do gooder", but the changes in driving patterns in my 16+ years here in Boquete are inescapable, and the trend is definitely in the wrong direction.

Given the news articles that we are reading, and first hand experiences while driving, I have dramatically changed my driving habits to a considerably more defensive posture. That means that if someone reading this posting is behind me on the road, I will not apologize for driving as slow as I now drive and for being extra attentive. Perhaps others should adopt my safer posture.

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Wow!  This is going to become a pet peeve topic real quick.  It's not just erratic and unsafe driving.  It's also automobile condition.  How many cars do you see driving around with bald tires, wobbly rims, cracked windshields, and broken turn signals and headlights?  The owners of those vehicles don't repair anything important for safety, but somehow they find the money to put in some flashy blue LED lights and 3000 watt woofers.  Bolotin needs to add this to his "negatives" list.

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Definitely many drivers here display a lack of common sense with their driving or handling of situations but also the lack of care by pedestrians blows my mind. 

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What happened to the interest in learning another culture?

The urge to "we can show you a better way" is what separates the locals from visitors.

(I'll wait for the deluge of "down" arrows now.)

jim

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35 minutes ago, JimAndNena said:

(I'll wait for the deluge of "down" arrows now.)

You got mine.

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Jim and Nena...hey we ARE learning....learning how to drive while looking at all directions at once, counting on a dumb move when other options would be safer.  Accepting that on any trip out of the house in my car I could lose my life and it probably wouldn't be my fault. ...and lastly: Panamanians who drive have enormous faith.  Faith that a car won't be coming at them when they pass on a curve in the opposing lane while going uphill.  This was my exact comment to my husband when we observed this on the curving hill while driving out of Boquete town when the road was still 2 lanes.   

I said:  "One thing that can be said about Panamanian drivers.....they have enormous faith" 

His response?  well it had something to do with the size of certain round male parts.   Ok that said, I doubt anything we do will change thing quickly.  I did think the cardboard cops on the roadside was a real good idea. 

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Interesting how people with a Panamanian spouse seem to think it's always our responsibility to embrace their culture.

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2 hours ago, JimAndNena said:

What happened to the interest in learning another culture?

The urge to "we can show you a better way" is what separates the locals from visitors.

(I'll wait for the deluge of "down" arrows now.)

jim

ALL countries should be interested in saving lives through better driving habits. I don't see this as a cultural issue.

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41 minutes ago, Brundageba said:

Jim and Nena...hey we ARE learning....learning how to drive while looking at all directions at once, counting on a dumb move when other options would be safer.  Accepting that on any trip out of the house in my car I could lose my life and it probably wouldn't be my fault. ...and lastly: Panamanians who drive have enormous faith.  Faith that a car won't be coming at them when they pass on a curve in the opposing lane while going uphill.  This was my exact comment to my husband when we observed this on the curving hill while driving out of Boquete town when the road was still 2 lanes.   

I said:  "One thing that can be said about Panamanian drivers.....they have enormous faith" 

His response?  well it had something to do with the size of certain round male parts.   Ok that said, I doubt anything we do will change thing quickly.  I did think the cardboard cops on the roadside was a real good idea. 

No doubt about it, there is an enormous amount of "Mike Machoism" involved on the roads even by those drivers with females parts. The driving gets worse with the distance from Panama City. Out in the boonies it becomes the wild west mentality. Until the national government decides on a real vehicle inspection enforcement, and funds a real traffic police force, nothing anyone does will change.  Of course, fixing the infrastructure to provide drainage, signage, lighting would help but don't look for that to change soon either.

Bottom line, you one chooses to live there, what you see is what you get.

 

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Agree.   That said, I didn't retire here to die early on the road.  That was not part of the package I signed up for.  One would expect average driving skills...or maybe a bit below.  I could deal with that.   What we witness is way way below average to the point of absurdly dangerous, and frankly I just don't understand it. It is what it is, I understand.

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1 hour ago, Brundageba said:

"One thing that can be said about Panamanian drivers.....they have enormous faith"

Call it 'Faith', 'Big Male Parts', 'No Fear', 'Death Wish', or whatever but I believe on the part of many individuals it's simply a failure to consider the consequences of careless driving or disobeying traffic laws.

If I'm not mistaken there were 10 traffic deaths in the last 3 or 4 days, all of which looked avoidable.

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1 hour ago, Keith Woolford said:

Call it 'Faith', 'Big Male Parts', 'No Fear', 'Death Wish', or whatever but I believe on the part of many individuals it's simply a failure to consider the consequences of careless driving or disobeying traffic laws.

If I'm not mistaken there were 10 traffic deaths in the last 3 or 4 days, all of which looked avoidable.

I realize the numbers are very high, but it is amazing why there aren't more deaths considering driving habits and pedestrians who walk in the middle of the road and never, but never look for on-coming traffic. Careless, faith, non-thinking, bad habit, etc., etc., etc. The situation is bad and I think getting worse.

Perhaps the answer is that these people do not value life?

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What I don't get is the people who walk behind my car when I am starting to back up.  They don't seem to notice the back up lights and the car in motion.  I look in all directions twice, then behind me a third time, then right and left to see if there is someone preparing to walk behind me.  If being oblivious is a cultural trait, no thank you, I have no interest in participating in that.

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One area of traffic interest where Panama is ahead of the game is a national law against driving and cell fone use. Even hands free cell fone use should be illegal because it is the mental distraction, not the use of your hands, that causes accidents.

I did read of a couple of solutions to improving traffic safety. One was a steel spike on the steering column pointed at the driver's chest as a method of maintaining a driver's attention.  Another solution was to build all cars within the steering set to pull to the right the moment the driver loosened his/her grip on the wheel. Those familiar with sailboat piloting will understand that operation.

 

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National Police officers demonstrated a rollover manouvre near San Felix this afternoon. Injuries.

 

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"But who will guard the guardians?"--Juvenal

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Quote

Road safety education, a pending issue in Panama

Sun, 06/11/2017 - 17:09

Road Safety Education.png

Panama City.- People who risk their lives crossing motorways as pedestrian, vehicles that advance on the right, buses that dangerously exceed speed limits. This is the day of the highways of Panama, a country that has one of its major pending subjects in Road Safety Education.

"Since I live in Panama, I have not been driving again. I am scary, people is very aggressive at the wheel. Every time I go to take a taxi, I try to take a cab with a belt, but almost none have it in the back,” said a young European woman, who did not want to give her name.

Last year 440 people died in the country in different traffic accidents, almost 20 more than in 2015. A figure not insignificant considering that Panama is a country of little more than 4 million inhabitants.

So far this year, the figure already exceeds 200 people, according to data from the Transit Authority and Land Transport of Panama (ATTT).

The spokesman for the Movement of Victims of Violence in Panama, Toribio Díaz, said that traffic accidents must be called "acts of road violence" and that the knowledge of the Panamanian society about how traffic works are null.

"Most of the victims on the roads are young people under 30 years old and this is due to the poor training and preparation they receive in driving schools," he said.

The association seeks, among other things, to ensure punishment and harden penalties up to 8 and 15 years for those drivers who cause fatal accidents by going under the effects of alcohol or speeding.

"Guilty homicides for aggravation have a ridiculous punishment of between 3 and 5. Our penal code punishes more a person who has stolen a cow (livestock theft has a penalty of between 8 and 10 years) than someone who kills another person by driving at 160 kilometers per hour," said the activist.
If road fatality data are disaggregated, the situation is especially bloody among pedestrians, since road deaths account for almost half of the total casualties. Of the 440 deaths that occurred last year, 196 were abuses, compared to 177 in 2015. So far, this year, at least 68 people have lost their lives run over, according to data from the ATTT.

The director of Road Education and User Defense of the institution, David Ramirez, said in an interview with Acan-Efe that it has been possible to reduce the mortality between motorists and cyclists, since these represent only 3% of the total deaths, but he admitted that the number of rolled pedestrians remains worrying.

"Our motorcycle riders are focused on schools because children are all pedestrians," said Ramírez.

The official explained that the ATTT has an agreement signed with the Ministry of Education (Meduca) and since the beginning of the current Government Administration, in July 2014, provides basic notions of road education in some primary schools.

The goal is to turn the children into the police of their own parents, so that they end up saying “daddy we will cross the pedestrian crossing,” he added.

For the association of victims, there are too many factors that explain the high numbers of abuses, including poor signage, lack of sidewalks and traffic lights, and poor public transport, which would clearly help to clear up vehicles streets.

"There are very isolated efforts, but there is no legal mandate to promote road education in schools and public institutions. It requires a real state policy that cannot be changed by different governments," concluded.

 

http://www.panamatoday.com/panama/road-safety-education-pending-issue-panama-4515

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One of my neighbours, a Doctor, recently complained that "no hay cultura para conducir en Panama" or "there is no culture for driving in Panama".

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Honestly, reading the Road Safety post by the Moderator above...if I didn't know it was Panama I would swear it was Los Angeles!  I can also add that the driving and pedestrian behavior we experienced while in Panama is actually somewhat more docile that what I've managed to live through in India, China, Italy, Spain and Mexico!  Not that I'm offering an excuse for unsafe roads and driver ability.  Just seems we Americanos have a pretty high bar against which we measure others and, IMHO, that bar is not is not even close to the realities of most other countries.  Now I understand why the Panama rental car agencies are militant about car insurance.

Yah, I don't want to die on the roads either. Perhaps we all drive hummers or tanks?

 

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The original article that prompted this discussion appeared in the Panamanian press and was authored by a Panamanian. The notion that driving skills here should be improved has absolutely nothing to do with Americans trying to impose their standards on others.

The purpose of reporting local highway crashes and fatalities is to keep people informed of roadway dangers, and encourage defensive driving.

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Panawanna...ahhh just give it time.   You'll see.  The highway dangers here are different from the ones in the crowded street of India.  They come at you fast and hard here...and often take off half your car and leave you a burning mess upside down in a ditch.  

OK here's one:  The street that Romero is on...OK about 2 blocks north ( towards the Catholic church direction )  we saw a car upside down in the middle of the street.  Consider that!  It takes some sort of unique skill to do that.

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I hope I don't have the experience you outline, Brudageba!  We drove to Las Lajas from Boquete and back on the last visit in November.  The highway was still being worked on and our friends were warning us of the detours and poorly marked diversions.  I did the driving and was tense the entire ride.  I grew eyes on the back of my head.  Thankfully we didn't see anything horrible, accident or driving wise.  

Keith, thanks for your guidance.  I responded in a private message.

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