x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Road safety in Qatar: 'All young boys want to race fancy cars'

At current rates, one vehicle in five in Qatar will be involved in a crash in 2015, according to a study released this year by Qatar University.

A traffic sign in Mesaid, Qatar. Nadine Rupp / Getty Images
A traffic sign in Mesaid, Qatar. Nadine Rupp / Getty Images

At current rates, one vehicle in five in Qatar will be involved in a crash in 2015, according to a study released this year by Qatar University.

Funded by the Qatar National Research Fund and conducted in collaboration with the Qatari Traffic Department and the Qatari Statistics Authority, the study predicted that the emirate's annual number of traffic accidents would approach 220,000 in 2015.

The yearlong study showed that lack of concentration, miscalculation and speeding are behind half of all crashes in Qatar.

"It is a big issue in Qatar that we are struggling to deal with," said Zainab Sultan, who worked as an editor on a separate traffic-safety project at Northwestern University in Qatar. Produced in early 2011, the multimedia project was created by 11 journalism students at Northwestern to explore local driving culture.

The national driving ethos "seems to be the mindset and culture born out of having lots of space and big roads as well as having the fastest and fanciest cars," said Ms Sultan, 24, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in science and journalism this spring.

"All young boys want to race and here they have the roads and the nice cars to do it. So it is not surprising they race and get into accidents," she said.

The project also found that speed cameras had not done much to deter reckless drivers.

"There are so many cameras, but since many of the speeding drivers are the richer ones, they just pay the fine and aren't bothered too much by it," she said.

Ms Sultan received her driving licence a few weeks ago, but postponed renting a car until after Ramadan.

Her biggest worry will be Doha's many roundabouts.

"They are every new driver's nightmare," she said. "There are so many roundabouts in Doha and many of the accidents happen there."

The disregard for road safety is passed on from generation to generation on the male side.

"It is viewed as a manly thing to get behind the wheel, so you see uncles and fathers encouraging the very young boys to drive early. So you see very young men speeding along the roads and getting into accidents," Ms Sultan said.

Officials from the Traffic Department said that an increasing number of vehicles as well as construction projects on roads throughout Qatar had also spurred the rise in traffic jams and crashes.

There were 814,373 registered vehicles in Qatar in 2011 compared with 771,325 in 2010.

Statistics by Qatar's Traffic Department indicate that crashes have caused 1,894 deaths during the period from 2001 to 2010.

rghazal@thenational.ae