In an effort to combat the rising number of collisions on Qatar’s roads, authorities are targeting some of the country’s youngest residents – long before they can legally climb behind the wheel of a car.
The 30th annual GCC Traffic Week kicked off yesterday at Darb Al Saai and includes several free activities such as children’s games, a traffic exhibition, field archery, a traffic village, a safe driving simulator and a desert rally for bicycles.
The hope is that instilling safe driving habits into younger passengers will rub off on their family members in the driver’s seat, officials say.
“We often tend to ignore kid’s role in accidents when they can actually help save their parents’ or siblings’ lives,” Ahmed Al Bakry, ambulance service operations manager, told Doha News.
Traffic safety and the number of vehicle collisions – which totaled nearly 400 in January – are a common concern for many residents.
While the dramatic rise in Qatar’s population and accompanying increase in the number of vehicles on the country’s roads is partially to blame, many residents argue that the reckless driving habits of a minority of motorists are causing too many preventable collisions.
Stricter enforcement and more education is the preferred solution for many, although some experts question the effectiveness of the latter strategy.
Adnan Hyder, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Doha News last December that formal education of young drivers isn’t effective at improving traffic safety.
In some cases, it may actually cause more harm than good by making drivers overconfident, he said, added he favored a graduated licensing system that incrementally increases a young motorist’s driving privileges.
However, authorities involved in GCC Traffic Week appear to be targeting residents at an even earlier age by, for example, running workshops to teach kindergarten and primary school students about safe traffic concepts, ideal driving and understanding traffic signals.
Additionally, the Traffic Department said it plans to launch traffic curriculums at four schools, with the intention of further extending such efforts to other schools in the future.
Many youth groups were slated to participate in this year’s events, including a team of boy scouts from Abu Obaida Independent School for Boys. They were accompanied by Mohamed Al Johari, a leader at Qatar Scouts and Guides Association, who said that this year’s traffic week aims to involve larger numbers of young students compared to last year.
“There are more workshops this year, increased participations from both school boys and girls,” he said.
While the country’s police presence is slated to increase later this year when a new special highway patrol force hits the road, officials are asking motorists to help them crack down on dangerous drivers.
Local transportation services provider Mowasalat used its booth at GCC Traffic Week to not only show the dangers of drinking and driving, but also to teach residents how to spot motorists that may be under the influence.
“It is essential for us to try and demonstrate all possible cases of dangerous driving so that regular citizens on the road know how to deal (with) and report them,” said Khalid Kafoud, Mowasalat’s corporate affairs and communication manager.
He added that anyone who sees “odd behavior” on the road should report it immediately by calling the police.
Know your location
While referencing major landmarks and intersections is a common way of giving directions for many Qatar residents, emergency service providers say that knowing one’s precise address can save the life of a loved one.
Over the past two years, the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning has been installing blue number plates that display zone and street numbers on buildings to serve as public addresses.
However, Al Bakry said many residents in Qatar remain unaware of their address and waste precious moments trying to direct paramedics to their location.
While it may be difficult given the circumstances, Al Bakry emphasized the importance of 999 callers remaining calm and answering all of the operator’s questions so the appropriate resources can be dispatched.
“Victims or their families who call us often make the mistake of panicking and stressing first, which means they lose time to tell us what’s really happening,” Al Bakry said.
“Most callers don’t understand the significance of these questions – They are for us to maximize our efforts to send the needed help accordingly.”
Do you plan to check out any GCC Traffic Week events? Thoughts?