Highway patrols to be introduced to Qatar’s roads next year

roads

Sam Agnew

A newly-trained Highway Patrol Police force will hit Qatar’s roads some time next year, the Ministry of Interior has announced.

The first batch of 50 officers graduated last Thursday from a month-long, Qatar-specific course taught here by the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety (NUCPS).

The course, a partnership between the Ministry of Interior and RasGas, included training on traffic crash investigation techniques, advice on how to deal with the public, driver interviewing skills, vehicle inspection and Qatari traffic law awareness.

It also covered identifying and booking common violations like tailgating, mobile phone use, and failing to wear a seat belt.

As part of their training, officers were taught how to use newly purchased speed detection equipment, including radar guns, which would allow them to detect speeding motorists as they ride their patrol cars.

The MOI also said it plans to introduce more mobile speed cameras in areas not currently covered by radars, which would also help catch drivers who deliberately brake before cameras, and then accelerate when out of range.

Poor safety record

The introduction of these dedicated highway police is part of the government’s push to improve the country’s dismal road safety record.

According to figures from Hamad Medical Corporation, injuries caused by road traffic accidents account for one out of every eight deaths (12.5 percent) in Qatar. This makes road accidents the country’s leading cause of death.

Additionally, MOI figures showed that the number of accidents resulting in injury jumped nearly 12 percent last year. The number of severe injuries increased some 3.2 percent, while the number of people killed fell half a percent, from 205 in 2011 to 204 in 2012.

Pedestrians are increasingly bearing the brunt of road accident fatalities in Qatar. Speaking to the Gulf Times, Hamad General Hospital (HGH) Trauma Surgery section Injury Prevention director Dr. Rafael Consunji explained:

“Pedestrians are Qatar’s most vulnerable road users, with 71% of them dying on the scene. Every year, about 80 pedestrians die in Qatar and more than 200 suffer from severe injuries that require hospitalisation.”

Traffic accidents are also the most common cause of death and permanent disability amongst Qatar’s youth.

At an event to mark World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, which was last week, Dr. Hassan Al Thani, senior consultant at Hamad General Hospital’s (HGH) Trauma Centre, told the Peninsula that many young people admitted to the hospital’s trauma department “need a miracle to recover.”

The MOI has set a target of reducing the number of serious traffic accidents in Qatar from 300 to 250 per 100,000 people by 2016, and reducing the average annual traffic mortality rate to 10 deaths per 100,000 people –  a figure it achieved last year.

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