Accident record

The newspapers have been full of reports of the number of road traffic accidents and Oman’s dismal record in comparison with other countries. Muscat Daily on May 9 headlined that road accidents for the beginning of 2013 were up 19.9 per cent in 2012.

On March 30, it reported that Oman has the highest road accident death rate in the GCC: more than double of Qatar, UAE and Bahrain. The figure is 30 deaths per 100,000 people.

I have noticed a substantial and welcome increase in the number of police cars patrolling our roads, and the number of checkpoints that have been set up. I was on my way to the airport the other day on Sultan Qaboos highway, and having been tail-gated I was cut up on the inside lane and then I watched as the offending driver weaved from lane to lane at high speed being chased by his friend. The ROP were in hot pursuit and I am thankful that the offenders were eventually caught.

We all know that for some, cars are a fascination, a symbol of independence, giving perceived status. For others they are a hobby: several thousand people visited a recent classic car festival. Manufacturing, selling and maintaining cars provide a living for many people. But it is time that Oman’s poor accident record be improved. The standard of roads here is generally excellent compared with neighbouring countries. Whilst extra care is needed in rainy conditions, for the vast majority of time in the sultanate the highways, local roads and junctions are well built and should be safe.

The first priority is to ensure that the cars and trucks that frequent our roads are up to the task. I still see too many souped-up, dropped-down, blacked-out, and beaten-up cars on our streets. Some of the trucks seem to be too full of goods, leaning to one side or the other. I am concerned to see reports of high prices of genuine spare parts. This leads to the use of cheap replacements that may not be suitable. Everyone on the road should be driving a vehicle fit for purpose.

The second and top priority is to ensure that all drivers know how to drive safely. The efficacy of the driving test is paramount. The correct way to drive, park, use mirrors, and overtake must be taught and independently verified for all those who use the roads.

Speed limits are imposed for a reason. I hear that radar tolerances have recently been reduced one can now be caught for being only just over the limit. Red lights mean stop. Someone else has a green light at that time and jumping the light will cause danger to another vehicle or a pedestrian trying to cross the road.

Muscat Daily on April 20 reported that the ROP is cracking down hard on offenders, with jail time for those serious offenders. Causing death or serious injury; excess speeding; jumping lights; driving recklessly; and racing can all result in time behind bars. I support a points system too, where repeat offenders run up a tally up to a limit. When the limit is reached, the driving licence is confiscated. In my view, those who open doors at traffic lights to spit on the road should also be given points. This is unacceptable social behaviour for a civilised country.

As parents, we all want to see our children grow up and to fulfil their potential. Strict enforcement governing the condition of vehicles will help more to survive on our roads. Educating those who sit behind the wheel, and who use their right foot to provide power, is critical. All drivers must learn to put the safety of others before even their own.

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