Two separate traffic accidents killed sixteen people on Wednesday in Morocco, a country with an appallingly poor record of road safety.
In one crash, twelve people died near the town of Youssoufia, when a truck driver lost control and smashed into a bus. Police arrested the driver, who was himself hurt.
Four other people were killed and two injured when a truck crashed into a light vehicle on the road between Casablanca and Beni Mellal.
Such fatalities are painfully common in the North African country. Just last month, sixteen people, including several tourists, died when a bus crashed in southwestern Morocco.
About 4,200 people died in traffic accidents in Morocco in 2011, a 12 percent jump from the prior year, according the nation’s equipment and transportation ministry.
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Thousands of others are annually wounded in such incidents.
For a country whose total population is only 32-million, these are alarming numbers. In the United States, which has a population in excess of 300 million, there were about 33,000 traffic fatalities in 2010.
The British Foreign Office advised its nationals who plan on visiting Morocco that “accidents are especially frequent on busy major routes but also on narrower secondary roads. All drivers should take extra care when overtaking, particularly where there are no hard shoulders.”
Traffic accidents tend to peak between May and August when the tourist season is in full swing.
The situation is so bad that the Moroccan transport ministry estimated that the social costs related to road accidents and fatalities amount to some 2.5 percent of the country’s annual GDP.
The al-Bawaba news agency indicated that much of the carnage on Morocco’s roads and highways can be attributed to inattentive and aggressive drivers. In 2007, the government imposed a series of steep fines on driving infractions.
However, the poor conditions of Moroccan roads have also played a role in this deadly saga.
Speed limits and seat belt laws applied by the government have failed to reduce the number of deaths and injuries.
The U.S. State Department said of Moroccan traffic: “Congested streets are characteristic of urban driving. Drivers should also exercise extreme caution when driving at night due to poor lighting systems along roads. Traffic signals do not always function, and are sometimes difficult to see.”
The U.S. government agency added: “Secondary routes in rural areas are often narrow and poorly paved. Roads through the Rif and Atlas mountains are steep, narrow, windy, and dangerous… Pedestrians, scooters, and animal-drawn conveyances are common on all roadways, including the freeways, and driving at night should be avoided, if possible. During the rainy season (November - March) flash flooding is frequent and sometimes severe, washing away roads and vehicles in rural areas.”
Interestingly, since alcohol in generally banned in the Islamic state, drinking accounts for a very small proportion of road accidents in Morocco (about 3 percent, according to the Global Road Safety Partnership).