Police officers in Qatar have been too busy directing traffic on Qatar’s increasingly congested roads to ticket rule-breaking motorists, the Ministry of Interior’s top traffic official has said.
During rush hour, most of the traffic department’s on-duty officers are stationed at major intersections or assigned to block roundabout exits to ease gridlock, Brig. Mohammed Saad Al-Kharji told Doha News.
This has strained the department’s ability to proactively enforce traffic rules, he said, adding that officers do however sometimes ticket motorists.
Speaking on the sidelines of the International Traffic Medicine Association’s World Congress earlier today, Al Kharji said the problem is being tackled in the coming months.
By the end of next year, the department plans to double the number of police officers patrolling Doha and heavily populated parts of Al Rayyan, after more new recruits – armed with instructions to pull over rule-breaking motorists – complete their training courses.
“Most of our police, before … are standing there just to control traffic,” he said. “But now, insha’Allah, you will see that when (a motorist commits) a violation, they will be (ticketed),” Al-Kharji said.
He added that there will be 100 officers patrolling Doha and the surrounding area on each shift by the end of 2016, up from 50 now.
Stricter enforcement of Qatar’s speed limits and traffic laws is seen by residents and road safety experts alike as one of the keys to reducing deaths and serious injuries in vehicle collisions.
However, this is not the first time the traffic department has pledged to boost enforcement.
It had announced plans to tackle bad driving behavior by increasing the number of plainclothes police officers handing out tickets in 2012, 2014 and again earlier this year.
The Ministry of Interior also said in April that it would be using its growing network of surveillance cameras to remotely ticket motorists who talk on their phones while driving, don’t buckle up and illegally overtake other vehicles.
While the use of technology, including radar cameras, may be an effective way of penalizing bad driving, some experts say it doesn’t really change motorists’ behavior.
Roger Taylor, a defensive driving specialist in Ras Laffan, previously told Doha News that the sight of police officers stopping motorists and handing out tickets would be a much more effective deterrent:
“If someone is being pulled over the police, hundreds of people will pass by and say, ‘I don’t want that embarrassment.’”
Some 174 people have died on Qatar’s roads through the first nine months of this year, up from 150 during the same period in 2014, according to a tabulation of figures released monthly by the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics.
While some say it’s inevitable that the number of serious collision on Qatar’s roads will increase as the population keeps climbing, authorities have set a goal to reduce the number of traffic fatalities in absolute terms.
As part of the country’s National Road Safety Strategy, authorities want the number of deaths to fall to 130 by 2022.
In relative terms, the country’s National Traffic Safety Committee has set a goal of reducing the number of fatalities to six per 100,000 residents. In 2012, the comparable figure was nine deaths per 100,000 people, down from 13 per 100,000 people in 2010.
That goal was repeated today at the International Traffic Medicine Association’s World Congress.
The conference, which has been held biannually in recent years, brings together traffic engineers, road designers, police, paramedics and doctors to discuss how to reduce the number of casualties caused by vehicle collisions and ensure that victims receive the best medical treatment.
The Congress, which is not open to the public, continues until Wednesday.