The end of October marks the end of the three-month grace period granted by the Interior Ministry for drivers to include first aid kits and reflective triangles in every vehicle licensed to travel Egypt’s roads. Vehicles caught with these items missing will be penalised according to the new Traffic Law.
The authorities concerned have used up two full months to approve the specifications of both items. Newspapers were keen to list any information they could get about these specifications. Two precious pieces of information went missing though; that of the outlets from which the approved items may be purchased, and at what price.
Now we are in the third and last month of the grace period; now begins our hunt for the ultimate treasure: the approved triangle and first aid kit. Even though the specifications of the treasure are known, the hunt is hard for there is no map. The hunter—the driver—must himself or herself look for the clues and ask some guide who would hopefully be competent. Prayers might come in handy to avoid being misled to a false treasure of non-approved specifications. For then some traffic officer would be bound to show up and deliver the tragic blow that the “treasure” does not accord with the approved specifications. The hunt would end in failure and a fine.
The components of the first aid kit are now known to all. It is commendable that the kit should include a manual to guide the drivers in using the various components when needed. But this does not cancel the need for practical training in first aid practice on the road until an ambulance arrives. A manual is insufficient substitute to training, and paves the way to mistakes, whether unintentional or because of ignorance, that result in worse injuries or loss of life.
As for the reflective triangle, drivers may easily distinguish such obvious specifications as dimensions of the sides and base. Other specifications, though, are too sophisticated for the untrained eye. The inclination—a vertical gradient of 10 degrees—when placed upright on the ground, its resistance to winds of 64 kms/hr speed, the intensity of illumination or reflection, have been clearly demonstrated in advertisements but are nevertheless difficult to distinguish by ordinary drivers. So how can one tell a proper triangle from a fake? And where from can one buy an approved triangle or first aid kit? The arena for manipulators is wide open to circulate items which do not conform with the traffic specifications, and the victims are waiting in the wings to find the lost treasure before the grace period expires.
Dr Mahmoud Eissa, head of the specifications and quality control authority, declared that the specifications were set up in collaboration with the traffic administration. He added that the triangles currently on the market do not conform with the specifications.
Upon hearing that declaration I heaved a sigh of relief. Many a times did I think of buying a triangle from the street vendors at traffic lights, but changed my mind at the last moment. I feel sure thousands of drivers have already bought them and they are most probably cursing their bad luck and wondering how come the traffic administration or the specifications and quality control committee or consumer protection societies leave these vendors to peddle their non-approved wares?
So do I wait for a hopeful announcement from traffic officials to inform us of official outlets from which to buy an approved first aid kit and reflective triangle? What if the days passed by and no outlet materialises? Should I rush to join the crowds in their frenzied treasure hunt?