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Driving on Qatar’s roads appears to be getting less perilous, with the number of road deaths, accidents and traffic offenses all falling in 2016.

According to the Ministry of Interior (MOI), some 178 people in Qatar died in traffic-related accidents last year. That’s down 22 percent from the 227 killed in 2015.

Officials attributed the decline in deaths to better ambulance response, more police patrols and an increase in the number of radars around Qatar.

Fewer drivers on the roads could also be playing a factor, thanks to several licensing restrictions passed over the last few years.

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New speed radars

Meanwhile, even though they surged toward the end of 2016, overall traffic offenses dropped nearly 5 percent from the year before. These numbered 1,643,209, down from 1,720,735.

And the total number of road accidents also fell in 2016 by 7.8 percent in comparison with 2015.

Cause of death

According to the MOI, some 95 percent of the people killed in road accidents last year were men, while 5 percent were women.

Notably, though Qataris only account for about 10 percent of the population, they are dying in disproportionate numbers on the roads.

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QNA reports that 16 percent of the people who died last year in road accidents were Qataris.

Asians accounted for some 54 percent of the deaths, while non-GCC Arabs comprised 22 percent.

Officials cited speeding, lack of discipline and tailgating as key causes of road deaths last year.

Not wearing a seatbelt also contributed to injury and death.

Speaking to the Qatar Tribune, the head of the Traffic Department Brig. Mohammad Saad al Kharji said mandating seatbelt usage for backseat passengers is now under study.

Pessimistic view

Even though the roads appear to be growing safer, some residents continue to believe otherwise.

In November, a survey found that many Qatar drivers continue to engage in dangerous practices such as speeding, tailgating and using a mobile phone while behind the wheel.

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However, fewer people than in the previous edition of the Qatar Road Safety Monitor did say their morning commute was improving.

The observation comes as public works authority Ashghal builds new routes across Qatar and replaces roundabouts in Doha with signal-controlled intersections to make the junctions less dangerous.

Have you noticed improved road conditions? Thoughts?

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Officials has revived legislation that would provide legal protection to Qatar’s nannies, drivers and cooks by creating a common contract for domestic workers.

There is currently no law regulating domestic help in Qatar.

These workers are not required to sign contracts with their employers and cannot file complaints against them with the Ministry of Labor.

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The Cabinet approved new legislation to change that yesterday, according to QNA.

It said the bill would define the rights and duties of house help such as maids, drivers and gardeners, and “regulate the relationship” between these employees and their sponsors.

The move comes six months after Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) recommended that legislation be issued to change the status quo.

Stalled law

Qatar has been discussing a draft law for several years. But officials put it on the back burner in 2014 after the GCC began talking about passing unified domestic workers legislation.

That agreement would have included one day off a week, the right to live outside the employer’s home, a six-hour working day with paid overtime and the right to travel at any time.

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However, the legislation stalled in 2015 in part over disagreements about whether it was too generous.

Rights groups criticized the development, saying a lack of legal protection leaves Qatar’s 84,000 female house helpers particularly vulnerable.

Some have been subjected to excessive working hours, late and unpaid wages, restrictions on movement and sexual assaults, groups have pointed out.

Possible provisions

QNA did not provide details of the upcoming law’s terms and conditions.

But when it was talked about in 2011, it said domestic helpers:

  • Must sign a contract with his/her employer, with the format and rules to be issued by the Labor Ministry;
  • Are entitled to free housing and food as well as breaks during an eight-hour workday;
  • Are free to practice their religion;
  • Must receive proper medical care when sick and cannot be forced to work during illness;
  • Are entitled to three weeks of annual leave;
  • Can quit at any time;
  • Must receive two weeks of basic pay as end-of-service benefits for each year worked for employer;
  • Are not responsible for paying for their visas or medical testing;
  • Must be at least 18 years old to work as a domestic helper;
  • Must be employed through a licensed manpower agency;
  • Cannot be asked to do any work other than those specified in her contract, or work that takes a heavy physical toil or is “below a woman’s dignity;” and
  • Are entitled to have their sponsor meet all expenses in the event of their death, including transporting the body home.

However, even at that time recruitment agencies expressed skepticism about enforcement of the law.

Thoughts?

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It is against the law to operate remotely piloted air systems (RPAS) in Qatar without government permission, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said.

The prohibition against unauthorized drone usage was published in newspapers this week.

Reiterating a warning it issued last year, the CAA said the use of drones without permission “poses serious threats and hazards” to the country’s air safety and navigation.

Drone ban announcement

It also warned it would take legal action against any violators of the law.

Drone development

Qatar has been working on plans to develop a “space management concept” for more than a year now.

The aim of developing a policy to regulate drone usage is to avoid incidents such as airport closures due to unauthorized RPAS in the area.

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“It is not a big issue, but we have to take care of it. Drones can sometimes be disturbing,” General Khalid bin Ahmad Al Kuwari said in June.

Qatar is also in the middle of developing its own drone technology to protect its coastal borders.

Last summer, the RSC signed a five-year research deal with Texas A&M University at Qatar regarding drone technology in the areas of defense, industry and commerce.

Thoughts?