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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Eleven people killed in 'drifting' accidents in Oman 

Last year, 13 people — between the ages of 20 and 27 — were killed in incidents of drifting

Stephen Biagioni driving in the first round of the British Drift Car Championships at Teesside Autodrome in Middlesbrough, UK. Alamy Stock Photo
Stephen Biagioni driving in the first round of the British Drift Car Championships at Teesside Autodrome in Middlesbrough, UK. Alamy Stock Photo

Eleven people were killed in Oman this year in accidents caused by drivers attempting stunts using the technique known as drifting.

Last year, 13 people — between the ages of 20 and 27 — were killed in incidents of drifting, when drivers turn at high speeds to make their tyres lose traction and send their vehicles into spin, while at the same time trying to maintain control.

Despite repeated warnings from the police to stop the “dangerous road sport”, young people still attempt such stunts for thrills or to impress peers.

Just last week during the Eid Al Adha holiday, a 21-year-old driver lost his life while drifting in Muscat.

A person caught drifting faces a fine of 300 Omani rials (Dh2,861) and a 24-hour jail sentence.

Omani authorities said drifting accidents also left 56 people injured this year. Last year, they recorded 123 cases of injuries, most involving pedestrians.

“These young people see drifting as a sport, but they are risking their lives,” a police spokesman told The National. “The police have zero tolerance for such dangerous driving, and we show no leniency if they are caught.”

Hussain Al Rashdi, 31, whose brother was killed in a drifting accident last year, said young people were doing it for the excitement.

“My brother, who was only 23 when he lost his life, loved doing it just for the thrill of it,” he said. “He used to watch videos downloaded from the internet, and then he practised on the road.”

Abdullah Al Balushi, a 26-year-old drifting enthusiast, has had his car fitted with special brakes and tyres.

“It is all about traction and how the car grips the road. Of course, you need to be a good driver, too,” he told The National.

“I understand the risks, but road drifting is like a drug to me. I love the screeching of tyres on the road and the twisting and turning.”

Mr Al Balushi said he performed all his stunts on public roads.

As Oman struggles to reduce the number of road accidents, experts are urging the police to take sterner action against dangerous driving.

Last year, 692 people were killed on Oman’s roads, an 8 per cent increase from 2015, according to the police.

“A fine of a few hundred rials and a day in jail is not severe enough for these young people looking for thrills on wheels,” said Ghassan Al Saidi, a member of the Oman Automobile Association. “Too many young lives are lost, and surely the police can come up with a better punishment than that.”

In June, a video of a man drifting in Oman made the social media rounds, sparking public outrage.

“Such videos encourage more young people to pursue the sport,” Mr Al Saidi said. “My advice is that we should not pass on these videos and spread them around.

“Every time you do that, you promote death on the road.”