By Nicole Froio, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Growing roadway congestion and traffic accidents in Rio have become more frequent and deadly, with an increase in vehicle collisions on its streets. The issue was highlighted by the five bus accidents which happened in the span of just twelve hours last week, leaving one person dead and 61 others were injured.
The largest accident took place in the city’s Centro, where a 361 bus crossed a red light and hit a 125 bus, causing the first vehicle to topple over. Thirty passengers were injured and taken to the hospital and a street sweeper was wounded by glass fragments.
Experts say the number of accidents and breakdowns has been growing in the last ten years due to an increase in number of cars, lack of road upkeep and a large number of old cars that are neglected by their owners and are likely to break down causing disturbances on the streets.
Driving instructor Marcos Guimaraes Lyrio says the chaotic traffic is the result of bad drivers and the state government’s failure to teach proper skills to motorists. “The preparation of drivers is low, there are more theory lessons than actual driving lessons [when people get their first driving license] and that needs to change.”
Lyrio also says that bus drivers have a schedule to abide by which makes them hurry on the road. “In my opinion [bus drivers] all have to re-learn how to drive. They also drive for very long periods which makes them tired and they don’t pay attention when driving,” he added.
The high number of collisions and breakdowns also contribute to making traffic slower on already busy streets. A study done by newspaper O Globo taking in consideration the number of rescue services the government had to perform in 2011 suggests that in a thousand cars, 23 are likely to breakdown and interrupt traffic.
Engineering professor from PUC (Pontifícia Universidade Católica) and a specialist of transport, José Eugenio Leal, says the traffic in Rio is the result of a large number of private cars that are used every day and a public transportation system that is not progressing in tandem with the city.
Leal said: “The main reason for [congestions in Rio] is the increase in the number of private cars. People have been buying cars in massive numbers and using them more because it makes their lives easier. In addition to this, the betterment of public transport hasn’t lived up to the needs of the city.”
Mr. Leal admits congestion is a problem that affects all neighborhoods and that imprudence is the main reason for accidents. “More people using motorcycles with imprudence and in a hurry are factors that contribute to the number of accidents,” adding that “[there must be] a massive investment in public transport where buses are prioritized, there must be more control over speeding, more driving education especially to young adults.”
The State Department of Traffic of Rio de Janeiro (DETRAN-RJ) has announced the number of mandatory driving theory lessons will increase from 45 to 60 hours, but the number of practical lessons will stay at twenty hours. Lyrio thinks the change is “absurd” and explains, “You can learn the theory in a week. New drivers don’t need to sit in a classroom for longer, they need more actual driving practice.”