Remembering road traffic victims; Look beyond the numbers
Today is the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, and Qatar, which has one of the highest road fatalities in the world, needs to remember this more than others.
Reckless driving, miscalculation, speeding, lack of concentration, bad roads, lack of proper pedestrian crossings and a host of reasons contribute to the staggering number of deaths and injuries related to road accidents. And the majority of victims are young drivers or pedestrians.
A report by Qatar National Research Fund predicted that by 2015 one vehicle in every five will be involved in a road accident, and the annual number of traffic accidents would approach 220,000 in 2015.
However, it’s more than just numbers.
“A road accident in Qatar left my friend gravely injured and vegetative for life. It makes me very angry and it broke my heart. Often we think, such things may never happen to us and we can never fully imagine how it can change things for us. For parents, it means having to re-think life again and trying to forget/make peace with the perfect son/daughter they may have had. Acceptance is very hard,” says 22-year-old Hooriya Hussain, a PR professional.
Traffic injuries constitute about 12.5 percent of all deaths in Qatar. “They needed a miracle to recover,” is how the team from Hamad General Hospital’s (HGH) described the conditions of three patients who were injured in road accidents and treated at HGH according to a news report.
Strengthening preventive measures
Despite all measures by officials to reduce the number of road accidents, many feel it is not just the drivers that are to be blamed. Poorly maintained roads – those with potholes or cracks, no streetlights in some areas, only single lane tracks (which cause illegal overtaking) are some of the reasons that contribute to car crashes.
Most often even the cameras installed for speeding don’t seem effective. “They work on reducing speed only, not accidents. I still see insane accidents pretty much everyday,” says Hamad Al Saegh, an economic researcher. “They (cameras) work on reducing speeds a few meters before and after the cameras…” and once the car passes the radar, it can speed up is what he means.
To tackle this, it was announced today that the Traffic Department would be introducing mobile radars. These cameras will be installed on patrolling cars, on highways. The 50 officers, who make up the first batch of the Highway Patrol Police, will start work next year.
In May, Qatar launched the National Traffic Strategy 2013-2022 which aims at reducing the number of traffic victims, enhancing traffic management, and enforcing safety measures, this strategy focuses on five dimensions: road safety, vehicle safety, pedestrians’ facilities, awareness building, in addition to refining license and legislation issues.
Pedestrians lack awareness
It is a very common phenomenon to see people crossing highways and freeways where vehicles can speed up to 120 kmph. The lack of overhead pedestrian bridges or crossing zones poses a major issue in many parts of Qatar.
According to road traffic injury statistics released by HGH’s Injury Prevention Programme (HIPP) earlier this year, pedestrians are Qatar’s most vulnerable road users with one in three road deaths being pedestrians. As many as 92 percent of pedestrian victims are expatriates – mostly from Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – where traffic flow is in the opposite direction.
On World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, observed on the third Sunday of November each year, we look at the statistics of road accidents in Qatar as per 2011:
- Traffic accidents, during 2011, was more than 5,000, a 13 percent rise compared with 2010
- 84 percent of the total casualties were males and 16 percent were females
- Drivers constituted 50 percent of the casualties
- 58 percent of the casualties were of the 18-40 year age-group
- Fatal casualties constituted 4.3 percent in 2011
[Photo courtesy: Sam Agnew, from Flickr]