Muscat: Oman deals with more deaths on its roads than any other country in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) apart from Qatar, State Council members heard yesterday.
With road accidents becoming the leading cause of death in Oman, government experts have called for better enforcement of traffic laws on the country’s roads.
Despite the number of accident cases dropping by more than half in the past decade, from 8,816 in 2007 to 4,721 last year, accidents are the most common cause for death and paralysis in Oman and Qatar, in contrast to other GCC nations.
State Council yesterday held a forum to discuss better implementation of the country’s traffic laws, and Sheikh Dr. Al Khattab Al Hinai, vice-chairman of the State Council, called for a two-pronged approach.
“We already have a new traffic law and there is a Royal Decree for it.
“The Royal Oman Police is trying to implement this gradually, and we will improve the way in which we enforce this traffic law and handle traffic violations.”
“But it’s not just about the law, it’s also about education of young students in schools to generate awareness and the main purpose of this forum is to provide a direction for that,” he added.
“The State Council isn’t just meant for overseeing the government and making laws; we want to be part of it in order to educate and bring awareness to society.”
Al Hinai stressed the need for a collective effort in bringing accident numbers down, calling for participation from the media, private bodies, government agencies and even communities to assist the ROP in clamping down on traffic violations.
Injuries caused by traffic accidents are the number one cause of deaths among those aged between 15 and 19, and the costs of rescue and treatment carried out by GCC nations amount to between 1 and 2.5 per cent of government revenue.
“There should be awareness campaigns and participation from the community,” said Dr. Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al Zadjali, chairman of the Legislative and Legal Committee of the Shura Council.
“For example, if I see someone committing a violation on the road, I should be able to report the situation. It should not just fall to the police. There should be community and national understanding of road safety, accountability, and awareness.”
“There is very low awareness about what the Traffic Law amendments actually are, and how they are enforced,” he added. “With regards to any future amendments, input should come from scientific studies regarding road safety in Oman. Amendments should have the community’s input, especially in terms of these studies.”
Al Zadjali also presented a paper on a five-point plan to improve traffic safety in Oman. The points are: technical specifications of vehicles, consequences of negligence, implications of speeding, repercussions of overtaking, and the consequences of alcohol and alcohol abuse.
Government agencies began stepping up their efforts to curb reckless driving on the roads after October 18, 2009, when His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said delivered a speech on the urgency of bringing down Oman’s high accident numbers. That day is now observed as Traffic Safety Day in Oman, every year.
“These accidents affect people both economically and socially, so there has to be a commitment to road laws,” explained Altaf Al Marhoon, assistant secretary general for Oman’s Information and Research Centre. “One of the reasons for this is because people don’t know much about road safety. Other people just don’t care about these rules.”
“We’re finding that there are an increasing number of young people involved in accidents because they are on their mobiles, and they think they can handle their cars when there is a problem, but it only takes a second to cause an accident,” she added. “That is why we are also focused on telling people to try to avoid using their mobiles while driving.”
The council will also create Instagram accounts and launch social media campaigns to raise awareness.
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