Monday, September 22, 2008

ROP skews road fatality statistics – what are your real chances?

How many people are killed on the roads in Oman every year? Care to guess?

Officially, according to the ROP statistics (more on that later in this post), last year Oman saw a total of 798 road accident fatalities, plus 8530 injuries. Already by end August this year, you’ll probably not be too shocked to learn we’d beaten that record with more than 800 dead, so we’re heading for a total of more than 1000 dead this year. Given the population of Oman – including expats - is around 2.5mln, that’s a rate of 40 per 100,000. On paper that looks like about 3 times the rate in the developed world. (Note, back in 1996, when Oman was already the worst in the Middle East, it was only 24 per 100,000. MENA stats). You can see crashes here.

The problem with this official number is that it’s, er, not true.


Something you won’t be told is that the official ROP number of road fatalities in Oman is only for adults who die at the scene of the accident. It does not include people who die from their injuries in hospital later, and most shockingly it does not include deaths of children. But at least that keeps the public numbers down, huh?

So, your guess is probably as good as mine as to what the real number of fatalities is. But it’s got to be a lot higher than 800 so far.

In trying to calculate what this actual number may be, it’s hard to link the ROP stats with the more accurate but hard to decipher Ministry of Health numbers, but it looks like:
1/ deaths of children under 16 total about 15% of adult road related fatalities
2/ the number of deaths of adults from road accidents who later die in hospital is around the same as the ROP figure for those by the road side (for 2006).

Combining these guestimates, I figure this year approx. 2,300 people will die in this country from car accidents. Put another way, thats about 2 in every 1000 adults in Oman.

Shocking. And thank goodness most Omanis don’t even drink alcohol, or just imagine what the numbers would be like...

And is there anything in the media about this? Not really. The ROP try, but they don’t have the budget or the skills for effective attempts at real PR campaigns. There are no Government campaigns getting people to wear seat belts, slow down, use child seats, or to stop overtaking on blind corners. It’s a national carnage that’s getting worse every year, and nothing is really being done to stop it. Too few ROP officers, and most of the time of the few we have must be spent cutting dead and dying bodies out of cars, rather than being able to even try to enforce the few road laws.

The ROP figure for injuries (probably more accurate than fatalities) is going to be over 10,000 this year. That means, dear reader, if you live in Oman you probably have a 0.5% chance of being injured or killed by a car next year.

So, take care people. Its certainly not a piece of advice you're going to get from the Government.

And perhaps those with a predeliction for giving religious based sermons could spend more time on this part of Omani behaviour, and make a real difference to the lives of hundreds of people right now...


  1. Heh...a cousin of mine refuses to wear a seatbelt because 'it feels annoying'. He has a wife and a two-year old.

    -Omani in US

  2. There are enough and more road safety campaigns doing rounds the year. No shortage on that front, but, what is required is strict IMPLEMENTATION of these rules!

    BTW, nice post!

  3. The road triffic safety centre set up by PDO made the following recommendations:-

    1- link the traffic offences databses to insurance company databases to penalise the frequent offenders where it hurt most, insirance premiums.
    2- Establish a probation period after obtaining a driving license where an adult family member to be with the newly qualified young driver whenever he/she drives for the first 6 months, like in the US.
    3- Inrease police patrol officers skills in identifying and apprehending bad driving habbits (not just speed, its attitude)
    4- Enforce child seat belt and child restraining seats.

    There were other suggestionsm but because this looks like too much hard work, the ROP implemented none.

  4. Karim , i believe the linking of all insurance companies to the ROP database is in progress and should be up and running quite quickly.

    As youv'e said in ur comments, i believe ROP should monitor and punish the attitude of bad drivers on the highway as opposed to just speeding.

  5. 10 or 15 years ago I had to go to the Seeb Airport Traffic Police to pay a dirty car fine. On the walls they had statistics and deaths then was around 700 (694 was the figure either total or only Omani – not certain at this distance). With increased car numbers and so on the number could easily be treble today.
    Adults literally holding babies at arm’s length in the front seat of a car, shocking. People who think skill in putting their foot flat on the floor is the making of a good driver, frightening. The extraordinary number of green plates already crashed, astounding.
    Comments on various other web pages about lack of Insurance covering cars isn’t half the story; how about no driving licence at all.
    There must be a system to link all the bits and pieces together to ID missing documentation, to ID populations needing guidance on practical death avoidance.

  6. Nice post Dragon, and bound to stimulate some discussion.

    I reached the conclusion that driving is something the locals do to pass the time whilst on the phone.

    In my view bad driving all stems from the lack of active policing of the basic traffic rules.
    Clearly there is little no concept of danger amongst much of the driving population despite the carnage all around.

    I could not help myself telling off the parents of a toddler that had her head out of the front passenger window, just in the vee at the front, ready to be decapitated in the event of emergency braking. Unattached of course.

    What happened since the last edict to arrest and lock up for 2 days anyone screeching tyres and overtaking inside yellow lines? All standard driving procedure for many as I see and hear it daily. I have seen this happen in full view of the police who do precisely nothing before undertaking themselves.

    Having actually been fined for "dangerous driving" by a policeman who tailgated me in presumably his own beaten up car at speed on the highway so close it was impossible to see his headlights, and who, by swerving aggressively across my path, stopped his car in front of mine me in the middle of the very busy carriageway (not on the hard shoulder) because I didn't get out of his way (there was nowhere to go with two solid lines of traffic - he purely wanted the safe braking distance I had left for himself) I feel that there is little hope.

    Introducing stiff fines and taking away licenses for bad driving and it will cool down. Before that though, the ROP, bless their cotton socks for I am sure that some of them do a good job in the circumstances, need to understand the basics themselves, then implement them in a fair and consistent manner. Until then I regret, the carnage will, by and large, contuinue.

  7. I know that the police do hide the correct number of fatality due to road accidents in Oman. This could be due to the embarrassment that rising numbers causes. I do not understand why they did not accept proposal from PDO as stated by Karim. It being hard work is unacceptable excuse. Is it because they think the statistics mentioned by Dragon does not include them thus making them immune to death i.e. they are not one of the people who have .5% chance of being killed by road accident.

    Maybe the police are trying to solve this by looking only at one issue, which is speeding. Because even after putting all those speed radars all over the road the number of fatality is still rising. Maybe there are points that they have overlooked. Maybe the road condition is one of the things they need to look at, maybe the awareness they try to make is not adequate or not capturing the right people, maybe they need to include road safety as a major module in school.

    One thing for sure that is not helping is them keeping the actual figures hidden to the public… and that my friends really grinds my gears.

  8. I do think that poor and reckless driving and speeding are at the root of the problem. These false statistics alarm me partly because I don't want to fall victim to one of these dangerous drivers on the road, but I figure my chances are very great.
    I wonder if it would be safer for everyone if there were far fewer cars on the roads. This might be accomplished by A) Tax fuel and auto registrations heavily, to make driving far more expensive. B) Raise the age required for a drivers license to .. um .. 25 yrs? and C) Use fuel tax revenue + other moneys to build an efficient rail line through greater Muscat to Sohar so that more commuters could ride the rails to work and keep off the roads and out of the way of dangerous drivers.

  9. nice post!!!
    the numbers are shocking
    i admit that i'm a bit impulsive in driving, but i do wear the seat belt

    guess what after this post i'm planning to improve my driving behaviour

    and i think educatin should take it's role
    and social activities for youths about this issue will make them apply the safety rules

  10. The first step in solving any problem is to admit there is a problem. The ROP has sort of done this. The next step in problem solving is to define the problem and its dimensions. With the ROP reporting soft numbers it is difficult to understand the severity of the problem. It is time to face reality and start reporting comprehensive data.

  11. The ROP express deep concern about road fatalities in Oman and then do nothing about it. When was the last time you've seen a police car actually patrolling? There should be hundreds of police cars and motorcycles on the roads patrolling, policing, catching and ticketing violators, but there aren't. The public prosecutor came up with extreme punishments for people who cross red lights, overtake over the shoulder, and drive recklessly. But the police aren't enforcing the laws. People cross red lights in this country as if there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. They're not afraid of the penalty because they know that the possibility of being stopped by the police and actually having the penalty enforced on them is less than 1%. The public prosecutor might as well issue a new law saying violators will be shot on sight. It won't make a difference. People know that Oman's police are useless. They are uneducated and underpaid. A policeman will not go out of his way to perform his duty. His salary is negligible. His job is thankless and hopeless.

    The ROP needs a major overhaul. They need to increase salaries. Retrain. And they need to go on a massive recruitment drive to hire hundreds, if not thousands of new police men and women. Not the usual kind who can barely write their name, never used a computer and only look for a police job because there's absolutely no other job for someone with such lack of skills. They need to hire smart young people. People who got good grades in school and who can actually have careers in the police force. And the police force needs to be overhauled and upgraded. All the processes which are still done on paper need to be automated. The standard driving test needs to be changed. The department of motor vehicles and the immigration and passports need to be taken from the police and given to an independent civilian body.

  12. Kuwaiti woman: how many children do you have?
    British woman: one boy and one girl
    Kuwaiti woman: Oh, what will you do if one of them is killed in a car crash?
    I know of one Kuwaiti family who had three sons killed in separate car crashes in different parts of the world. You'd think you'd change your driving habits after one, two, brothers are killed, but obviously not.
    So, the answer is to have lots of children on the assumption that a few won't live past mid 20's

  13. After Cardio, the death due to accidents comes second for the reason of death in Gulf.

    We do find articles in newspaper concerning these..but are people who are casuing these reading those articles? i dont think so...

    Plus behind the steering wheels, we humans change our normal nature of behaviour. Though i am not aggressive, i tend to become aggressive when i see someone driving at 80 in fast lane....

    coming to the point of solution..i feel the reasons for accident should be found is easy to say only speed is the main reason...but i feel, fatigue and recklessness are the main reasons..

    There should be a proper analysis of accidents to find out the reasons for accidents and then go about for solving....

    there are some accidents involved in our company vehicle and the comment which comes immediately thereafter is....he would have died had it not been a PDO spec vehicle..yes we spend around RO 600 - 1000 to make our vehicle PDO spec..

    So one solution can be to follow PDO specs for all the vehicles...

    Then one irony i could never understand is, worldover accidents and speeding are problems...

    Than why on earth we have to manufacture HI fI vehicles where it is useless to drive less than 120 in those vehicles?

    One thing puzzles me , newspapers not reporting accidents unless it is very reading accident reports, we tend to be more cautious next time? dont we....

    oh one more point..there are many Expats ( rather Indians i know ) who is yet to get thier driving license even after 2 yrs ...i just wanted to know , are there any locals also like that?

  14. reference to Jupiter

    you say that u become agressive if someone is driving at 80 kmph on the fast lane. But I have had many drivers flashing lights at me even when I am travelling at at the normal limit of 100 kmph, why is this?
    according to me, IT IS THE LACK OF PATIENCE, that cause all these mishaps. Drivers in cars do not seem to have any time or patience at all, it is as if they are in an eternal hurry to go home for a crap, perenially at that!!

    Being a journalist, I once posed a question to a police officer at a press conference. I asked him, why cant you reduce the speed limit on the roads. He said that cannot be done.
    And as for reporting on accidents, unless the cops send a press release, we are not allowed to write anything on our own, let alone publishing our own pictures of accidents. I know of my photographer colleague who was arrested for trying to take a picture of a road accident.

  15. I super agree with Muscati

  16. The driving here is ridiculous, shocking. It seems to be that people are really immature, almost childlike in their approach to driving. It is as if no one realises that we all SHARE the roads. Flashing your brights does not make the traffic part in front of you, how foolish. Safe following distance must be enforced, and more traffic lights installed. There are countless dodgy crossings on the highways that cause hundreds of accidents.

    Taxes and rates will not solve the problem, because there is no alternative to driving here, none at all, especially outside of Muscat.

  17. I guess information campaign as well as basic traffic rules and guidelines needs to be implemented in order to avoid road accidents in there.

  18. As per my knowledge strict actions should be taken for rackless driving, overspeeding, use of mobiles while driving. Everyday we can plenty of road accidents occured in highways in oman. Cameras should be placed in the highway and penality should imposed to these drivers. Qatar is a good example for traffic violation panalties.......

  19. The driving in oman is really terrific, most of the drivers are using mobile phone while driving. Overspeeding, they dont care about the traffic signs, speed limits. Its a developing countries but no cameras are placed anywhere, so no panalities at all. To save the life of workers, concrete barriers should be placed beside the road where construction is going on. Traffic police should control the overspeeding vehicles. We are scared to travel in Company vehicle bcoz all drivers are omani and they dont care about the traffic rules and regulation, morning they wake up late and drive overspeeded to reach on time limit. No body cares about the rules and regulation. Qatar having good approch for traffic rules, big panalties, Cameras are placed several places. Traffic violation deducts the points and cross the 10 points, they r restricted to drive the vehicle..................

  20. Step 1 is to teach the driving instructors how to drive! Seriously, I'm from the UK and about 90% of the population here would not even pass the driving test... braking distance, blind spot observation, keeping to lanes (that's what a steering wheel is for by the way), using hazard lights in place of brake lights far too routinely... I could go on. But then I see the driving instructors, and they aren't that much better!

    A proper, stringent, driving test with a written element is required. Personally I think the ROP or whoever should consider commisssioning the DVLA to come over here for a year and overhaul the test system.

    I suspect that would do a lot to curb most of the problems.

    That and raise the legal driving age to 18.


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