Some people agreed and some disagreed with me on this while I was in Iran but I really thought people’s driving had improved a lot in Tehran. I’m not saying all the cars were stopping on zebra crossings to let pedestrians go past or anything like that but studying the faces of a lot of drivers, I did come to the conclusion that they no longer took any pleasure in running their fellow citizens over either and unlike previous years, they no longer looked as though they were actively searching for distracted pedestrians to knock down.
Another sign of very good driving for me came in the form of a man who before changing lanes in the motorway, indicated! Ok so maybe he didn’t actually change lanes at the end and decided it was best to just drive on with the line in-between his wheels rather than with his wheels between the lines but the important thing is that he indicated even if his indicating had been a little premature and before he had made his mind up about which lane he actually wanted to be in. So the man in the white Pride on Hemmat Motorway on the 26th of April this year at approximately five thirty in the afternoon, I salute you.
I really felt like a lot had changed in the streets of Tehran since last year. For one, drivers and front passengers wore seatbelts! This also means that taxis are now only allowed to take four passengers instead of five since it’s practically impossible for two people to sit on the front passenger seat and wear a seatbelt. Saying that I must admit I’m surprised that taxi drivers have not yet found a way to get around this little problem by for example asking the smaller front passenger to sit on the bigger front passenger’s lap and hold the seatbelt over both of them.
Another safety measure taken by the government is that motorcyclists are now all made to wear crash helmets.
How you ask? And you ask a very good question too. How on earth a government manages to make a people who use motorcycles to move their whole family (consisting of one wife, two children, one grandmother) and one ladder, from A to B, to suddenly become safety conscious and wear helmets?
I have decided to give the answer to this question in the form of a riddle: How many Pasdars (morality police) does it take to teach a motorcyclist that getting on a motorcycle without a helmet is dangerous?
The answer is, Three.
You take one long stretch of good old Tehran road and put three Pasdars on it at about fifty meter intervals. You arm the first Pasdar with a regular sized sign that in big, red letters says ‘STOP’. You arm the second Pasdar with the exact same sign, only bigger. The third and last Pasdar who should really be the most athletic one as well, gets no stop signs at all, instead you must provide him with a great big baton.
Before we go any further let me just confess that unfortunately I never got a chance to witness this amazing helmet awareness process myself since by the time I had arrived, all motorcyclists had already been made aware of the dangers of riding with their heads exposed and had all gone and bought shiny new helmets for themselves. Here I’m only repeating what Kamyar’s friend, Afshin told us about this very effective course of action.
As the first Pasdar on the road sees a carefree, helmet-free motorcyclist coming towards him, he pulls out his stop sign and waves it in front of the rider in order to make him stop.
If the rider stops, he gets fined heavily for having broken the law so he decides to ignore the Pasdar with the median sized stop sign and speeds past him.
A few meters away however, the second Pasdar is waiting with his even bigger sign. Again the motorcyclist ignores the stop sign and zooms past the Pasdar saying to himself, ‘Even Saddam Hussein and his army could not make us wear helmets. We went off to the war wearing nothing but a headband that said ‘Ya Mahdi’. Now who are you to make us wear helmets in our own country at the time of peace?’
Meanwhile the third and last Pasdar gets ready with his baton and when the motorcyclist reaches him, he is presented with a physical stop sign that sends him flying in the air by whacking him off his motorcycle as he rides past.
Before landing in the middle of the road, the man makes a promise to Allah that if he gets out alive, from that moment on he will wear his crash helmet at all times even when in bed or in the shower.
If this story is true as Afshin swore it was, then I’m very proud of our government that has not only made our streets safer, but has also managed to take the notion of tough love to a whole new level.
If you are wondering about the guy in the above picture and why he is not wearing a helmet, I must say in his defence that he is of course exempt from this law as the super-safety-conscious guy that he is, he only ever rides on the pavement.