Saturday, December 29, 2007

Oman keeps killing people on the road

The Oman Community Blog noted the recent article on Road Deaths in Oman.

In the 10 months to October 2007, injuries were 6742 and fatalities 635, around 15% up on last year. I'm also curious what the number of children injured or killed was given the almost total lack of child seats or seat belts being used, and considering the number of children I see loose in the car ready to be flung through the windscreen if there is an accident. But these stats aren't released.

While numbers of deaths and injuries continue to rise, the Times of Oman article had this classic Omani spin statement:
Statistics, however, show a 7.5 per cent fall in road accidents at 7,124 compared to 7,705 in October last year, thanks to the stringent government measures.

Yes, it's a minor improvement, and as the number of cars has risen, would look even better as a % of traffic I'm sure. But the fatality rate is shockingly high. In fact, the rate of fatalities to injuries (at around 10%) is 3 times more than in developed countries (around 3%). The Government's measures are far from stringent.

It is not about raising 'Public Awareness', the usual Omani answer to real problems – these drivers are totally aware of what they are doing. The answer in my opinion is more – a lot more – undercover traffic police, and better training for all the traffic police too. Dangerous drivers need to be stopped and fined. Really dangerous drivers should be stopped and arrested. We all see so many acts of dangerous driving every day that it would be easy for the police to stop them. Unfortunately the police themselves don't always drive safely either. Cameras on the highway may be a cheap option, but technology can't replace trained cops.

Oh, and Happy Holidays everyone.

Aside: Any Tourists coming to Oman should try to hire a 'PDO Specification' Toyota Landcruiser car rental. I know it costs more than getting a crappy little Toyota Echo, but it really is an insurance premium worth paying. Plus it means you can go offroad safely. A good place to rent high spec 4x4 from is a company called Shuram LLC (Rent A Car Division) PO Box 194, PC 134 Tel: (968) 24696299


  1. You're no wiser than the government offcials in this matter. Your proposed 'solution' to the problem is by enforcing and trying to make the country a police arena. We're already sick of the number of cameras scattered all over the road. I'm not against monitoring the roads, but for crap sake, it makes you sick seeing all this number of cameras. The majority of Omani drivers are young, and I'd assume most of this category are below the age of 29. The bottom line is, if you want to save their lives, you're basically going the wrong direction.

    Now, what should be done then?

    -Raise awarenes, .. bla bla bla .. not for me to talk about really, though I know it's important.-

    First, I think we should identify the 'death zones', that's where most accidents happen. There is a real problem, and it's basically no magic. Some real brainstorming should be done to tackle it and propose someway to crack-down the number of lost precious lives.

    This brings me to mention that some roads are potentially dangerous even with old mature experienced .. you name it .. drivers. You don't necessarily hit others, you may be simply hit and killed while you've taken all precautions to survive. Al-Batinah Road (Muscat-Sohar)is a good example. The number of junctions and direct-entry with no enough room to allow the car to accelerate to a decent speed to get in-lane. Studying statistics about this raod usage would prove this to be definitely valid.

    Muscat-Salah is another example. Gonu raised to the surface some of what was hidden. It's a serious issue, and it's the governemnet responsibilty to find a way out of this saga.

  2. Well at least some stats are actually being released at all. But there's nothing to say these stats are actually indicative of all accidents here.

    Just outside Sohar, on my way back from Abu Dhabi about 6 weeks ago, my wife and I arrived at a 5 car pile up shortly after it had occured (note- we did NOT witness it happen). We stopped to see what we could do but no one could understand us, there were loads of people all stopping to see what they could do, so we just went on our way. The paranoid part of me said that as the only ex-pats about, people might try and blame us. Ridiculous I know, but there we are.

    In that one accident alone, I'm pretty sure there were a few deaths right there in that accident - 2 cars were on fire and a third was smoking heavily. The accident area was on both sides of the highway. 635 deaths a year (refering to the quoted ROP numbers) correlates to about 1.74 deaths a day. For all of Oman. Is there a free bucket of salt being handed out with these numbers?

    I recall speaking with a nurse who works at MPH at a party in October who told me that the number of child deaths due to road accidents was indeed very high. And this was one nurse from one hospital in one city of Oman (ok, there arent that many cities in Oman, but you should get my point).

    The reported numbers also serve to illustrate the lot of the simple pedestrian here in Oman. That is to say they probably dont even warrant being reported on. If you were to factor in the number of dead from traffic accidents involving pedestrians, then I'm sure the number would jump significantly. There are simply not enough controlled pedestrian crossings, and as for the black&white zebra crossings, I've yet to see a driver stop for a pedestrian. I stopped for a guy standing by one in Ghobra. He looked at me as if I was crazy and refused to step out onto the crossing. What does that say!?

    How many of you have seen people trying to cross the highway on foot!? Again another menace to the roads here.

    Or how about the very special brand of people that will sit in the middle lane of the highway and trundle along at 80 talking on their phones?

    There is so much wrong with the drivers of this country, and yet such a simple fix = when are the ROP going to get on this nightmare and start policing it?

    A lot of people will point to the speed camera's and say "but we're trying to fix it". There is actual statistical evidence that in the UK, where the kingdom of the Speed Camera really picked up, accidents have actually increased since the roll out of cameras (accounting for the increase in vehicles on the road over time). See the following links:

    Now to look at this problem in more depth, you'd need to start with the drivers license, and how you get it. To be a driving instructor in this country, rather incredibly, all you have to be is an Omani and have been driving for 5 years. THAT IS IT. No test (other than a road sign test), No special training courses, nothing. Incredible!

    Speed limits are merely a suggestion here, no one cares except where the speed cameras are because the cops never enforce the rules, usually because they're too busy breaking them themselves. The number of people I see running red lights is very un-nerving as well. Red light cameras, coupled with hefty fines, it not jail time for repeat offenders and ruthless enforcing would go a long way to helping cut down on metropolitan accidents.

    However, as the dragon said, the only way to really turn around these road fatalities is to start taking it seriously. If it was taken seriously then the ROP would be busting people left, right and center. Road designs would be built for people driving vehicles that are capable of getting up to speed in the space allotted. Perhaps the road designers thought everyone would be driving Porsches and so decided to cut down the on-ramps. Much more likely a cost-cutting exercise.

    To the anonymous poster above me, I dis-agree with you. Speed camera's, as i've pointed out are NOT the answer, but proper policing and enforicing IS. History and statistics are on my side. :)

    Of course if there was a decent mass transit system in place I'm sure the number of accidents, commute times, pollution and such would go down... but thats another argument ;)

  3. Anon,
    I don't really understand all your comment, I'll need to reread it -

    But I do agree that one significant part of the problem is the younger (and 99% male) drivers who seem to think they have skills they simply don't have - we've all seen the guys who tailgate, then swerve right across the motorway to pass 2 lanes on the inside, then swerve back to the fast lane, all done at high speed, with no indicating, inches to spare, and total disregard for the risks they are subjecting others too. Or cutting in front of big trucks on the inside to gain a few cars on the queue.
    Frankly, I don't really want to save their lives at all, I want to stop them risking mine and my family's. And I want to save the innocent children being killed and maimed by their parents' ignorance. I usually hope for them to just clip something (preferably a barrier) and let Darwin take its course.

    So, Anon, I still think more unmarked Police cars and more enforcement is a big part of the answer. Perhaps if the punishments were not just fines but - like the UAE - publicised cleaning of the roads?

    But I agree also with your point that several roads are designed as death traps already, Muscat Sohar is 1, Salalah another, and accept that more could be done in that regard too. The first part of the road from Iski to Sur is another death trap - full of mindless overtaking at high speed, often at blind corners. The only way to avoid this risk, apart from not driving it at all, is to drive the largest heaviest hunk of metal you can, as most of the idiots seem to drive small old crapped out VW or Toyotas. But mostly the problem is behind the wheel, not the engineering.

    Lurker: Yes, the instructors are generally a joke. And I also doubt the stats. IE Do they include children or pedestrians? Don't know.

    The motorway sprint race is funny at first, until you realise that if one hits one of these runners you are by default responsible...

    Generally the best policy is: take a defensive driving course, and drive the biggest heaviest car you can with airbags, side impact bars, etc. And make sure everyone wears a seat belt.


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