Has an island ever really overturned

It's just after nine in the morning, and one of those glossy vacation days is dawning on the island of Mauritius, which is like a pack of Prozac to even the most depressed office workers who come from Europe by night flight. But at the police headquarters

It is just after nine in the morning and one of those glossy vacation days is dawning on the island of Mauritius, which is like a pack of Prozac to even the most depressed office workers who come by night flight from Europe. But the mood at the island's police headquarters could well be better.

The air is soft like a bathrobe, the flowers are color therapy. In the five-star resorts, the first guests lay down for an Ayurveda massage, the waiters arrange hibiscus flowers on the breakfast tables, and snow-white terry towels are already spread out on the sun loungers by the pool. Police Commissioner Ben Buntipilly already knows that the day will not be a wellness stay for him.

A tanker truck has overturned at the airport and is about to blow up any second. Bel Air had the first pile-up of the day. A car tumbled into the sea in Flic en Flac. And in Goodlands, some madman thundered through the village at 130.

That was about an hour ago and not yet a cause for concern. But when it starts to rain, it's definitely over with the good mood at the police headquarters in Port Louis. Chief Inspector Ben Buntipilly, 46, twenty years of service, head of national traffic safety for five years, is sitting behind his desk and looks grim, as if someone had just torn the three silver stars from the shoulder flaps of his uniform.

From above, where a fan fights against the thick air without much enthusiasm, it sounds as if a couple of birds are hopping around on the tin roof. Tock-tock-tock. Gently. Harmless. But Buntipilly knows that what sounds so harmless is bad news.

Tock-tock-tock means more collisions. More chaos on the streets. And by the end of the month at the latest the Minister of Tourism on the phone. Tock tock tock means: No chance of getting the statistics out of the basement today. Even more so, as there hasn't been a day for two weeks that this annoying tock-tock didn't start at some point.

Buntipilly is a cop, he gets paid to put down his anger like an old sandwich. That is why his voice is reasonably calm when he says: “Rain means 20 percent more accidents than normal. In addition, a landslide is guaranteed to come down somewhere. "

There's thunder. There is a small traffic light on Buntipilly's desk. The traffic light is red. Flickering. Green hasn't worked for a while. With the thunder, the red light also gives up the ghost. Buntipilly missed the traffic lights. Neither red nor green will turn on again. Red light crimes are also one of Buntipilly's problems.

20 percent more than normal. Presumably that would upset every traffic cop in the world. But what makes the rain particularly depressing for Buntipilly: normal conditions on the streets of Mauritius are anything but normal.

It is definitely a good thing that tourists rarely leave their hotel complexes. The relaxation you are looking for is hard to find in the real Mauritius. Not on the streets. According to the statistics of the World Health Organization (WHO), living there is more dangerous than anywhere else. Countries whose road users, given the historical background, would immediately be condemned to a certain degree of contempt for death, such as El Salvador or Nicaragua, are safer. Even an unexcited companion like the “Merian” travel guide warns: “If you rent a car in Mauritius, you should rent one of the more stable type.”

The 200,000 cars and motorbikes on the island crash into each other more than 20,000 times a year. In Mauritius, you are 20 times more likely to be involved in an accident than in Switzerland. You have to be especially careful of buses and taxis. Fifty percent of all taxis and one hundred percent of all bus drivers fail to remain accident-free for a year.

Hopeless situation

If it does it tock-tock-tock on Buntipilly's roof, it is as if a Lear jet full of ambitious drug lords had landed in Colombia again. A hopeless situation becomes a little more hopeless. Buntipilly is now standing behind his desk with a cup of coffee. He puts the cup down. Coffee spills onto the desk. Buntipilly is racing towards the first outburst of anger at full throttle.

That could be because the tock-tock has now turned into rain, which would also have hit the mood on Noah's Ark. You don't have to be a traffic cop to imagine how cars go off track in this weather and the rain makes slopes slide on roads. One can also imagine that a storm-lashed palm tree will crash onto the tin roof of the police barracks in the near future. Didn't the weather man talk about an approaching cyclone on TV?

The fact that Chief Inspector Buntipilly now looks like an unlocked hand grenade could also be due to the fact that he met the candidates for today's theory test at the coffee machine. One of them was Vikram. Vikram has been taking the theory test for three years. He's already passed the exam six times. "How are we ever supposed to have safe roads if these people can't even remember the few traffic signs?"

Alerted by the conditions on the streets and the impending damage to the image of the holiday island, the Ministry of Transport has commissioned numerous studies in recent years. The market of paradises is also competitive. The Maldives and Seychelles are now considered more luxurious by many people. Excursions to the hinterland and golfing are only offered by Mauritius. But many tourists like to forego that when they read about the “roads of death” and “kamikaze pilots” in the French “Figaro” recently.

The investigations all found out about the same thing: Too high speed and too much drunk driving are to blame for the fact that the small island crashes every 15 minutes. A few days as a road user on the streets between Plaisance and Grand Baise hardly give reason to doubt these research results.

In Mauritius, you don't have to wait long for a taxi driver to hand you a can of Phoenix beer from the freezer to the back to have an excuse to have one yourself. Or someone of the kind who understands the request to drive more slowly as a criticism of his driving ability, then pushes the tube even harder in response and turns the radio up to full volume to forestall further complaints.

Of course, all of this has long been known to Buntipilly. The investigation reports have been lined up in his gray filing cabinets for so long that he can't even find the key to get them out. The trouble is: Buntipilly has now learned that all the great findings from the official reports have not done much to improve the situation.

Whatever the police did - accident spots on television that were so gruesome that even the chief of police hardly dared to go out into the street, high buses, tough controls, more thresholds - you could only rely on one thing: the accident statistics went in the height. A delegation from the Mauritius traffic police has even traveled to Freiburg im Breisgau to learn from the German police how to bring order to the streets. The study trip didn't bring much. Except that Buntipilly is now even more saddened by the conditions in his territory. “Hardly anyone honks their horns in Germany. That was wonderful! With us even the police honk all the time! "

There have been moments when Buntipilly thought of quitting. On the way to work, he drives past the gleaming white hotel palaces with their manicured lawns along the driveway and the dozing security guard in the porter's lodge. Any job as a security guard in one of those luxury hostels, that would definitely be found.

No more 24-hour days because two drunk idiots were fighting an illegal race on the highway at three in the morning. All you have to do is walk around under palm trees with a radio in hand and after work a drink at the pool bar with one of the women traveling alone. And all that would be reminiscent of car traffic would be the quietly whirring electric vehicles that transport guests' luggage from the villa to the reception. Buntipilly has now put her feet on the table. The idea of ​​early retirement relaxed him. Even if the rain outside is just about to ruin his accident statistics even further.

In addition to the official ones, there are many alternative theories on Mauritius about the reasons for the traffic misery. It's like in countries with a bad football team. Everyone has already thought about it. There are people who believe that it is because of the fact that Mauritius is driven on European roads with an African temperament. Others consider it a bad omen that a bird like the dodó is considered a kind of national symbol.

"Dead as a dodó"

The dodó is probably the second most famous synonym for extinction, just behind the Tyrannosaurus Rex. The remoteness of its habitat and the lack of all natural enemies made the Dodó so lazy and idiotic that, once the Portuguese discovered Mauritius in 1507, it was exterminated within four months. The Dodó hangs in plastic or as a fabric version on every second rear-view mirror and sometimes also in the form of a pillow on the rear shelf. "Dead as a dodó" is what they say in English.

Others rely more on cultural-historical explanations. These people, for example, justify the notorious driving in the middle with the turmoil of the collective psyche. "We have an identity problem," says taxi driver Rabin Fanfan. Fanfan is behind the wheel of his Subaru. He is wearing a pink shirt. His jet black hair arches over his forehead like a canopy. This cannot possibly work without hairspray. Outside, right and left, sugar cane fields.

In 15 years of professional experience, Fanfan had seven accidents. A model taxi driver. Maybe because he knows more than others. Fanfan says: “We have to drive like the English. But we don't like the English. All that they left us in terms of economy are these sugar cane fields. And then they stole the last Dodó skeleton from us. The people here would much rather be French, even if the island has not been part of France for almost 200 years. We prefer to speak French, envy La Réunion and are proud that Chirac spends his holidays at the 'Royal Palm' every few years. "

“And that's why,” Fanfan pauses, so that it is clear that the crucial thing is coming now, “that's why we're driving in the middle. Away from the English, towards the French side. In order to solve our traffic problem, we have to make peace with our history, with ourselves. Or: introduce right-hand traffic. " It's good that Rabin Fanfan's lecture ends there. Taxi driver fanfan may have what it takes to be a cultural historian. He is, as he says, gifted in dealing with women. "I can tell you how to make them happy! In five minutes! " But he can't talk and keep his hands on the wheel at the same time.

When Buntipilly hears about the theory of taxi driver Fanfan, he laughs for the first time. "Fantastic! Right-hand traffic! Why not remove the lanes completely ?! " Buntipilly laughs, but it's not a mockery of laughter. 20 years with the traffic police, 20 years of increasing accident numbers have driven his arrogance out of him.

The most haughty thing he said this morning is: "If we hadn't done anything, it would be even worse today." Buntipilly is a man who hardly seems to have any certainty anymore. Except that traffic is something very complex. Something that not only has to do with rules and regulations, but also with passion and emotions.

Buntipilly had once been a proponent of higher penalties for traffic offenders. He once called for all drunk drivers to be thrown in jail for a year. In the past, he says, he only talked about "fighting", today he wants to understand.

For some time now, a large sign has been hanging in the office of the law enforcement officer Buntipilly. It tells you what the difference is between a boss and a leader. «A boss rules by law. A leader shows human kindness. " Or: “A boss speaks first. A leader listens first. " At the top of the sign it says: "Be a Leader, not a Boss."

Someone's Knocking. Vikram, the eternal candidate, passed the theory test. In return, 70 percent of all other candidates failed the exam. Almost simultaneously, the two telephones on the desk start ringing. Possibly the Minister of Tourism. The tanker at the airport may have exploded. Rain on the roof, as if a load of gravel had been poured out. Buntipilly doesn't pick up the phone. He smiles. Maybe he's thinking of Fanfan's theory. Maybe the job in security. With the small electric vehicles and the tanned ladies to happy hour. Then, like an evil insect, his cell phone starts to whir.