One in every eight deaths in Qatar happens on the road. With this alarmingly high rate of deaths caused by accidents, experts believe it is high time ways were devised to mitigate this deadly phenomenon which, most often, take young lives.
Dr Hassan Al Thani, Head of the Trauma, Vascular Surgery and General Surgery Sections at Hamad General Hospital, said traffic accidents in Qatar are responsible for 12.5 percent of deaths. In other words, one in eight deaths is caused by road accidents.
Around the world, injuries due to traffic accidents are one of the major reasons for disabilities and Qatar is not an exception. The average traffic accidents reaches 4,000 annually and 600 of these cause serious injuries while 200 lead to deaths; according to Dr Al Thani.
Stressing that road accidents are a major cause of deaths in Qatar, Dr Al Thani said the average rate of deaths from accidents is higher than that caused by life-threatening diseases such as cancer and other blood-related ailments.
He said injuries from accidents result in complicated diseases which cannot be tackled by simple solutions, but accidents can be avoided.
Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) established in 2007 the only centre for accident injuries treatment which has necessary medical facilities.
Qatar has the vision, leadership and financial potential which can make it a model in traffic accident prevention, he said, adding everyone should take the responsibility to prevent accidents.
Ibrahim Al Ibrahim, a columnist, was of the same view, saying every one, whether an official, ordinary citizen or expatriate, has to reflect on these figures and the accidents which lead to these high rates of deaths considering the country’s small population.
In his column in Arabic daily Al Raya, he recommended that authorities review the traffic law, including regulations on issuance of driving licences. He said these laws should be modified to help reduce accidents.
The main reasons are driving in high speed and failure to abide by traffic rules, he said.
“When we travel to Western countries we comply with traffic rules from A to Z, then why don’t we follow traffic rules here?” he wondered.
He said the Ministry of Interior should conduct a study to find out reasons behind these accidents and how these can be reduced.
Among his suggestions is to raise the age bar for obtaining driving licence. He said licence should not be granted to those under 20.
Al Ibrahim also recommended that authorities should increase fines for traffic violations, especially those that lead to death and serious injuries, with the possibility of revoking the driving licence.
In case of repeated violation, particularly high-speed driving, licence should be withdrawn permanently and the violator be put behind bars.
With regard to hiring family and company drivers, some terms and conditions should be applied such as possessing a valid driving licence, experience of not less than three years and taking a driving test.
Roads should be provided with surveillance cameras to detect violations, particularly those related to speed limits.
The ministry should utilise the media to promote traffic awareness in different languages. The traffic law must be explained to motorists who should also be provided with guidance so that accidents could be avoided, he added.
A recent study on accidents among the youth in Qatar has found that 25 percent of accidents were caused by technical deficiency in road designs. It said correction of these mistakes would reduce accidents by 35 percent.
Another study by Dr Badriya Sultan Al Ammari, Associate Professor in Education at Qatar University, has found that 61 percent of youth involved in accidents suffered only financial loss, six percent sustained serious injuries, nine percent moderate injuries, and 24 percent minor injuries.
Of the respondents in the survey, 95 percent liked driving cars while five percent liked to drive motorcycles. While 50 percent of the sample preferred to drive on internal roads within the town, 26 percent preferred to drive on highways and 24 percent out in the desert.
Recommendations of the study included restrictions on the renewal of driving licence, road safety and security, motorists’ adherence to rules to avoid accidents, and road works and maintenance under national companies, especially highways.
The Traffic Department, it said, should have monitoring points to check highways in general.
Dr Al Ammari’s study also explored the relation among age, gender, level of education, family and social status of the youth and parents’ job in relation to accidents.
It also looked into the relation between accidents and places where they happened and found most accidents occurred on highways.
The study also recommended that Qatari traditions should be followed in raising children and guiding the youth.
Schools, community leaders, the media and family should play a bigger role in raising awareness among the youth.
She said the high rate of accidents that claimed lives of a large number of Qatari youth was the result of ideological and cultural changes in society and that society should take responsibility to save the lives of the youth by giving them good guidance.
Chosen vehicles should suit the age of the users and not encourage them to be adventurous while driving. External influences such as video games and films on the behaviours of the youth should also be controlled.
She also suggested that educational and cultural councils for the youth should be set up in neighbourhoods and be led by intellectuals in collaboration with educational and social institutions.
Also a central statistics authority may be set up to study the general attitude and changes taking place within the youth. A database for the youth may also be set up.
Mosques can play an important role in raising awareness among the young to prevent accidents by showing the value of human life and financial and material losses.
Community leaders can contribute to solving disagreements among youth and preventing unnecessary competitions leading to accidents involving teenagers in particular.
The Traffic Department should study the type of vehicles and the frequency of accidents, and how to reduce accidents involving pedestrians crossing the streets, she added.The Peninsula