x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Oman believes education is the solution to safer roads

"Road safety is now the biggest national problem in Oman," says Alawi Al Murazza, the project executive for next month's Traffic Safety Expo in Muscat.

Twenty-one people died when this bus was in a head-on collision with a lorry near Haima, in southern Oman, in April of 2004. Hamid Alqasmi / EPA
Twenty-one people died when this bus was in a head-on collision with a lorry near Haima, in southern Oman, in April of 2004. Hamid Alqasmi / EPA

"Road safety is now the biggest national problem in Oman," says Alawi Al Murazza, the project executive for next month's Traffic Safety Expo in Muscat.

In its third year, the expo had more than 42,000 visitors last year, with the number expected to double this year as government employees, schools and colleges are required to attend the exhibition and seminars. Children from Grade 1 to Grade 8 will have sessions dedicated to teaching them basic road rules.

"We want the child to tell his father or mother, put your seat belt on and don't speed," he said. "Some parents are so careless, they leave their children without seat belts while they wear them."

"On average, three persons are killed daily in Oman in traffic accidents," Mr Al Murazza said. "It is a very serious issue."

Last year, more than 1,200 people were killed in traffic crashes in Oman. In the first eight months of this year, the number has already reached 1,000, with 54 killed during Eid Al Fitr alone. For all of August, 68 people died on the sultanate's roads, including seven members of an Emirati family in a three-vehicle pile-up in the southern resort of Salalah.

"Some roads are more dangerous than others, like the Salalah road, particularly between Nizwa and Thumrait, called the deadly 800 kilometres as they are old roads with no lights and old traffic signs," he said.

There are no radars on the Salalah road and some of the other major roads.

A 758-kilometre motorway is being built between Nizwa and Thumrait. It is to be completed in two years and the authorities hope it will save lives.

But ultimately, it comes down to the driver.

"I regularly see drivers zooming by, holding a mobile phone in one hand, and a sandwich or drink in the other. What is holding the steering wheel in place?" asked Mr Al Murazza.

One interesting tactic now used by the mobile services in cooperation with the police is text messages that arrive with the warning: "If you are driving and reading this, you will be fined."

Oman is to introduce new technology over the next two years, including a special radar that can capture how close a car is to another's rear bumper.

"We can't wait to implement new cameras to catch those reckless drivers that drive 150-200km/h on roads that are bad and should be driven on 50 to 60km/h," Mr Al Murazza said.

A common excuse of male drivers is to blame female drivers.

"They say, she was driving like a tortoise, when she was driving 100 and he was driving 160 on a road that is supposed to be maximum 120," he said.

"We remind those drivers, who won in the end, the hare or the tortoise?"

 

rghazal@thenational.ae