Road traffic crashes in Qatar: A neglected epidemic

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The burden of road traffic injuries in Qatar consequent to road traffic crashes is high and is the third leading cause of premature mortality in the country. The country is depicted to be in the midst of an epidemic of road traffic deaths. Presently there is non adherence and poor enforcement of regulatory laws in regards to road safety with speed culture prevalent widely, insufficient traffic management, non-usage of seat belts while driving. The use of mobile phone by drivers is also commonly seen and is one of the main causes of crashes. Drivers are also found to be cutting in after overtaking, tail-gaiting at high speeds and over-taking on the wrong side by driving over the curb and performing two-wheelers on 4-wheel drives. Currently there is no law for child restraint use in the State of Qatar. Several pedestrians are wounded and killed daily on Qatar roads. The reason being there are no available or accessible pedestrian crossings/ bridges at intersections and at other points on busy roads that are unsafe to cross. Within Qatar, many consider road traffic crashes to be random, inevitable acts  and accidents.

Traffic violations system also needs major reform within the country. There should be stricter enforcement with increased punitive damages for usage of mobile phone devices while driving and for non-compliance with seat belt laws and for violation of other road safety laws.  Child restraints should be introduced and the outcomes should be evaluated.  Since a large proportion of the population in foreign workers there should be enhanced driver education and the allowance of only safe drivers on the road.  After the installation of speed cameras in 2007, the vehicular death rate reduced from 19 to 14 per 100,000.Mobile speed cameras should also be randomly assigned in the country which would reduce the ability of road users to predict the location of the cameras and drivers can then adhere to speed limits at all times. Safe road environment should be augmented with periodic inspections to reduce crashes occurring as a result of potential accident spots. Increased road safety signage should be implemented.

There should be further enhancement and stricter enforcement of government mandated laws for road safety. Road traffic crashes are a huge public health problem within the State of Qatar and appropriate measures need to be taken urgently to halt this epidemic.

Photo courtesy:http://www.qatarliving.com/blog/beast666/car-accident

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4 Responses to “Road traffic crashes in Qatar: A neglected epidemic”

  1. mmahmood2 Says:

    Thank you for this interesting post highlighting the significance of road trauma. Road traffic accidents in developing countries are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among younger age groups. The extent of this problem in Qatar is considerable and resulting in an unacceptable burden of injury, death and disability. Fundamental road safety issues need to be addressed to reverse this trend. Better roads, safer transport systems, effective road safety intervention and trauma care services are all essential in addressing this issue, however in order to be effective these should be appropriate to the socioeconomic and cultural factors in Qatar.

  2. lisabutenhoff Says:

    Thanks for this post! I’m all for reducing terror on the road.

    Beyond the adopting and enforcing policies and educating drivers, other public information campaigns might help to address aspects of the problem that are a part of youth culture. I’ve never been to Qatar, but in many places I’ve been where the road is a terrifying place to be, it seems obvious that the problem is not just with knowledge of road regulations, but also with a culture of defiance and risk taking that comes out in one of the most dangerous ways possible through driving.

    Addressing this may not be so simple, but looking to public campaigns addressing the same problems in other countries may be a start. I still remember the harrowing videos we watched in driver education class nearly 20 years ago when I was getting my US driving lessons. Still, making safe driving ‘hip’ for youth with a lot of time on their hands and not a lot to do is not easy.

    It reminds me of a joke I heard in the Caucasus (where death defying driving is also the norm): A taxi driver barrels through a red light at a busy intersection and the passenger asks: “What did you do! You could have killed us?”. “Don’t worry,” says the driver, “I’m invincible.” The driver runs the second red light and the passenger shrieks, “Please stop!”. “Don’t worry” says the driver, “I’m invincible”. It happens a third time and the passenger begins to pray. “Don’t worry, I’m invincible” says the driver. The fourth light is green. But as the passenger begins to breathe a sigh of relief, the driver suddenly screeches to a halt at the intersection. “What happened?” asks the passenger? The driver shrugs: “Somebody invincible may be coming the other way.”

  3. kristamandy Says:

    This is an interesting topic (love the joke, Lisa), and might be categorized as an ‘endemic’ problem in many non-industrialized countries. The organized chaos of harrowing speeds, lack of respect for lines or lights, texting/talking while driving have been the norm in a few places I have worked (Mumbai, Cairo, Kampala). The issue is multi-faceted; lack of knowledge and enforcement of driving regulations, culture of risk-taking, and likely minimal training to obtain a permit all play a role.

    Beyond the policy change and legal enforcement of these rules, media campaigns will likely be an important sphere for intervention. I work as an orthopaedic surgeon, and although the traffic fatalities are a major public health concern, what is perhaps not as well advertised is the major morbidity experienced by polytrauma patients who survive. The loss or dysfunction of limb from fracture, amputation, infection and neurologic injury can have major implications for a patient. The ability to care for oneself and quality of life are often severely impaired, returning to work is often not possible, and family and psychologic burden, let alone economic burden on the health care system, are often high. Interventions that create a link between poor driving and major morbidity, and a focus on changing the language around road traffic incidents, from motor vehicle “accident” to “collision,” may be a start to a cultural change around traffic fatalities in Qatar.

  4. plighter Says:

    In researching this topic, I came across a review of the literature by the World Health Organization (WHO) that compared various suggested interventions for reducing road traffic accidents and injuries. Interestingly, several common interventions are not actually effective in leading to positive behavioral changes such as education and skill training for children, pedestrians, and drivers. Qatar is not unfortunately not unique. This is a problem that plagues so much of the developing world. Encouragingly though, an even greater number of interventions have led to positive behavioral changes including graduated driver licensing systems and use of daytime running headlights. Even a simple incorporation of speed bumps within Accra, Ghana have had some proven success. I’d be curious to see if such methods would have success in Qatar.

    If you’re interested, here’s the WHO report: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_traffic/activities/roadsafety_training_manual_unit_4.pdf.

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