Someone commented that I should write something about road traffic in Brunei Darussalam. That brings back old memories. The first ministry I worked for was actually responsible for the Road Safety Council and I was in the secretariat and at a time was the officer responsible for land transport department's policies. I remembered being on radio announcing the first traffic light installed at the simpang going into the present Centrepoint/Mall area from Jalan Gadong. At that point in time, the Centrepoint was not yet built and the only shop of note was the Hua Ho Gadong. For some reason for the radio interview, I was advised not to say the simpang leading to Hua Ho, so I had to say the simpang leading to Hasbullah complex. It confused a lot of people as that complex even though many people passed by it everyday, is not particularly well known, even now. (The next time you passed by, the Million Goldsmith is in the Hasbullah Complex.)
During my stint there, I realised one of the major difficulties about roads and traffic in Brunei Darussalam are the many different authorities running it. For instance, the construction of roads are undertaken by the Roads Department of the Public Works Department with money provided for under the 5 year National Development Fund whose development plans are prepared by the Economic Planing and Development Department. The Land Transport Department is responsible for the registration and licensing of cars including their safety as well as the licensing of all drivers including ensuring their ability to drive on roads. The enforcement unit of the Land Transport Department has authority over commercial vehicles and can pull them over if they commit violations on the road but does not have the authority to stop private vehicles. But if the cars are brought in for licensing or any other purpose, they have the authority not to license the car. The Police is responsible for the enforcement of road traffic laws including speeding and stopping cars with safety violations. The Electrical Department is responsible for the traffic lights. Anyway, by now, everyone gets the picture.
So, when certain problems arises, such as the huge roundabout at Beribi/Kiulap - who should be responsible? The issues include construction design of the roundabout, the ability of drivers and in some cases the technical capability of the cars. In an ideal situation, none of these should arise - most of us who have been abroad can see the various spaghetti junctions in UK - the one on M6 leading to Birmingham is particularly confusing. But in Brunei, problems arose and the difficulties were made acute because there is no one central agency overseeing it. In 9 out of 10 cases, issues are discussed at the Road Safety Council but the council is an advisory agency which has no legal authority on its own and can only ask or advise individual departments to carry out whatever recommendations the council agrees upon.
I have not even brought in issues of attitudes of drivers and so forth. The three areas of concerns which road safety specialists always allude to are the 3 Es. Education, Engineering and Enforcement. These three have to be coordinated and attitudes of drivers come under Education. However if that is lacking and compounded with poor road designs (Engineering) and lax policing (Enforcement) - then you can have a catastrophe in waiting. The many literatures I have read include how to deal with the way institutional responsibilities are assigned for managing different parts of the road network and how each part of the network is managed. Institutional responsbility include establishing the legal status of roads and the assignment of responsibility for designated and undesignated roads. Management arrangements deal with restructuring existing road agencies, centralizing management of small road networks, contracting out planning and management of roads, and dealing with undesignated roads. There is therefore a need to sort out these issues. However, to be fair, this situation happens all over the world. Though a number of them try to sort out things through the creation of central agencies such as the Federal Highway Authority etc. To talk properly about road traffic and road safety, you have to understand the underlying complexity of the issues under it.