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Shot from Qatargas TV commercial 2015


Shot from Qatargas TV commercial 2015

A powerful new road safety advert airing on Qatar television during Ramadan aims to stop people using their mobile phones whilst driving, a habit that is one of the leading causes of fatal traffic accidents in the state.

The 30-second Qatargas commercial – titled, “Did you get the message?” – is being shown on the Arabic channel Qatar TV and can also be viewed on the company’s website, shows a young man texting a friend while driving along The Corniche.

The advert then suddenly cuts as the driver appears to smash into the rear of a red pick-up truck. It finishes by showing his mobile phone lying on the ground, with its shattered screen still showing the text conversation.

In conjunction with the Ministry of Interior (MoI), the ad is part of the national One Second road safety campaign and is aimed at showing young people the potentially serious consequences of a moment’s distraction behind the wheel of a vehicle.

It states that mobile use while driving was one of the main causes of the 5,320 road accidents in Qatar in 2014 and is the latest in a series of annual Ramadan commercials by the company dealing with road safety issues.

More road deaths

It is being aired as official figures show an increase in the number of people who died in traffic accidents in Qatar during May.

According to the latest national monthly bulletin from the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics, 23 people died as a result of road traffic accidents in May – up from April’s tally of 21 and four more than May 2014, when there were 19 deaths.

The only other month so far this year when the figure of fatalities from traffic accidents was higher was January, when 31 people died on the country’s roads.

For illustrative purposes only

Hani Arif/Flickr

For illustrative purposes only

May 2015 also saw more people injured in minor accidents (668) than in the previous month (647) or for the same time the year before (578).

However, there were three fewer casualties as a result of major accidents in May (58) than in April, when there were 61.

This compares to May 2014, when there were a total of 57 people injured on Qatar’s roads.

Meanwhile, the monthly statistics bulletin also shows that the number of recorded traffic offenses decreased in May.

While Qatar’s population during May rose more than 9 percent year-on-year, and there were 12 percent more vehicles on the roads, the overall number of traffic violations for the month was down 8.3 percent year-on-year.

A total of 145,182 violations were recorded by authorities in May, up by 4 percent on April’s figures.

Comparing the year-on-year numbers, May 2015 saw a 12 percent increase in the number of bookings for driving through a red traffic light. Other offenses detailed in the report including speeding, violating traffic signs, failing to renew registrations and driving licenses and violating traffic instructions, all of which saw a dip in numbers compared to the previous year.

Switch it off

There is no specific category in the report for the number of motorists caught driving while using their mobile phone, however the catch-all category of “other” offenses saw a rise of 58.2 percent on 2014 violations.

The penalty for those caught using a mobile while driving is QR500, and in the past authorities have said they are cracking down on the widespread practice.

The Traffic Department has launched campaigns in the past in a bid to encourage people to voluntarily stop the practice. However critics have said these need to be coupled with tough enforcement to succeed.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Lord Jim/Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In response, the director-general of Qatar’s traffic department, Brig. Mohammed Saad Al-Kharji, promised at the end of last year that there would be more patrols on the roads, including stationing officers at major intersections, to catch those breaking the law.

Meanwhile, others are trying to encourage voluntary compliance among Qatar residents.

Last year, a local company launched several apps that voluntarily lock a motorist’s mobile phone while a vehicle is moving.

Still from Qatargas 2015 advert


Still from Qatargas 2015 advert

Developed by Qatar Mobility Innovations Center, the Salamtek initiative has software that locks a cell phone when a vehicle is moving above a certain speed, logging missed calls and messages and sending automatic replies to those calling a Salamtek-enabled phone.

Early last year, elected officials on Qatar’s Central Municipal Council called for all cars in the GCC to be equipped with technology similar to Salamtech’s software. However, the costs involved in fitting such a system in all cars in the region means it is unlikely that vehicle manufacturers will take up the suggestion unless it is becomes a requirement by multiple Gulf states.

There is an ongoing competition to encourage more people to use the technology, with rewards for the 10 safest drivers.

Belt up

Authorities here are also trying to encourage more people to wear seat belts when in vehicles, and new findings from research undertaken by trauma experts at Hamad Medical Corp. is adding to the existing research showing that belting up saves lives.

A 2012 study for Qatar Shell found that many residents are still reluctant to wear seatbelts. Its figures showed on average 81 percent of drivers buckle up, compared to 71 percent of front-seat passengers and just 8 percent of back-seat passengers in the state.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Ryan Dickey/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Recently, a team from Hamad Trauma Center (HTC) has been comparing death rates of people involved in vehicle crashes who wore seat belts with those who were not restrained.

They found that drivers who don’t wear a seat belt are five times more likely to die in a collision than if they were belted up, while the likelihood of unrestrained front seat passengers dying is four times as great.

And it’s even higher for those sitting in the back seat, where passengers are seven times more likely to die if they are not wearing a seat belt, the researchers found.

“Drivers and passengers who are not wearing seat belts are at a much higher risk of dying, being ejected from a vehicle, or suffering from a severe injury or permanent brain damage, if they are involved in a road crash or accident.

“Passengers are 31 times less likely to be ejected from the vehicle if they are using a seat belt. This means the risk of death is three times for those not properly restrained and therefore more likely to be ejected,” Dr. Ayman El-Menyar, HTC Research Consultant and lead author of the paper said.

The findings are part of a HTC research paper entitled: “The Underutilization of Occupant Restraint Systems in Motor Vehicle Injury Crashes: A Quantitative Analysis from Qatar,” which will be published in the journal of Traffic Injury Prevention.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Peter Kovessy

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Amid an ongoing enforcement campaign, car dealers in Qatar have received a fresh warning from the Ministry of Economy and Commerce about selling new vehicles with minor repairs to unsuspecting customers.

Over the last six months, government inspectors have been cracking down on local dealerships for failing to inform car buyers that their new vehicle was damaged while being shipped and repaired once it arrived in Qatar.

Closed Honda dealership.


Closed Honda dealership.

That’s resulted in government inspectors imposing month-long shutdowns of some of the country’s largest showrooms, including Qatar’s main Nissan, Chrysler, Honda, Land Rover and Toyota showrooms.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Economy and Commerce issued a memo obligating car agents and showrooms to obtain “a written endorsement” from customers that proves they are aware of all repairs performed on a vehicle prior to its purchase, according to a statement by state news agency QNA.

Some dealers have previously told Doha News that this is already a common industry practice for vehicles scratched or dented during the shipping process. However, this marks the first time since the crackdown began that the ministry has publicly explained how it is interpreting broad provisions of Qatar’s consumer protection law banning “false or deceptive information” on all forms of displays, including food labelling and other consumer good packaging.

It’s also the first time that the ministry has itself stated that the dealerships were shut down because customers were buying cars without being informed that the vehicles had been painted or repaired to hide “bumps and scratches.”

Previous statements from the ministry only said that the showrooms were closed due to “commercial fraud” and selling vehicles that had been involved in accidents as brand new.

Consumer rights

It’s not clear what prompted the ministry to launch its crackdown on auto dealers selling scratched or dented cars. However, it comes amid a broader effort to give car buyers more power and anecdotal complaints of subpar customer service.

 For illustrative purposes only.

Emyr Jones/Flickr

For illustrative purposes only.

Last August, several service centers were penalized following customer complaints about poor after-sales service and long delays for repairs.

More recently, auto dealers were told to relax warranty rules on new vehicles and not automatically void a customer’s coverage simply because they serviced their car at a third-party garage.

The ministry’s latest memo to the industry warns of “legal consequences” for not following the rules. According to the Al Meezan legal library, the showrooms that have already been sanctioned will be closed for two months if they are caught a second time and three months for a third offence.

Criminal charges are also a possibility under the law and can include a fine of up to QR1 million or a combination of two years in jail and QR3,000 fine.

At least one local auto dealer has said the issue involving his business is one of misplaced paperwork, rather than customer deception.

Speaking to Doha News at February’s Qatar Motor Show, Declan McCluskey – the general manager at Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana Co., which operates the local Nissan dealership – said that the incident related to two Nissan Sunnys.

“One had a scratch on the front bumper, and the other on the rear. Damages like these occur all the time as cars are being transported from manufacturers to retailers, and as a distributor, we fix the cars before putting them in the showroom,” he said. “All prior damages are disclosed to any potential buyer. In this case, one member of the staff forgot to mention the damages, and when the (inspectors checked our books, it came to light.”


For illustrative purposes only


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

A Qatar resident whose iPad and wallet were stolen out of her unlocked car while her nearly five-year-old daughter slept has spoken about her frightening experience to warn others not to be complacent with their safety.

Australian Katrina Hicks, who has lived in Qatar for 18 months, had been collecting her three-year-old daughter from Giggles Day Care in Al Gharafa just after 4pm yesterday.

Her older daughter had fallen asleep in the car and rather than wake her, Hicks said she left her, strapped into her car seat, while she ran in to collect her other child from the nursery.

When she returned to the car several minutes later, she found her older daughter screaming. Speaking to Doha News, Hicks said:

“She was hysterical. I asked her what had happened and she said, ‘a man opened my door and took my iPad.’ “

Hicks, who is a nurse at a school in Al Rayyan, said the iPad had been fixed to the back of the front passenger seat for her daughter to use, but the attachment had been torn from the seat and was gone.

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Sean MacEntee/Flickr

For illustrative purposes only

She later found the holder discarded at a nearby bus stop, she added.

Her wallet had also been stolen from the front passenger seat of the car, where it had been sitting on top of her handbag, she said.

It is not clear who took the items.

The mother of two has reported the incident to the police, who have taken fingerprints of the car.

“They were fantastic. Really supportive and helpful, although they said it might take several weeks for any information,” she said.

Hicks added that the nursery is opposite a construction site, which closes at around 4pm. At the time of the robbery, there were around 20 men milling around, waiting for their transport. However, none of them have so far come forward as witnesses to the incident.

Cautionary tale

Yesterday, Hicks shared her story on Facebook, attracting some criticism for leaving her child unaccompanied in a car.

But the mother said she shared what happened to her because she wanted to warn other parents about crime in Qatar, so that they would not be complacent about their belongings, and especially their children.

She said:

“There is a belief that Qatar is safe. But things do happen here, although they are often not reported. I know other parents who leave their cars unlocked, often with siblings inside, while they drop-off or collect their other children.

I know in hindsight what I did was unacceptable but it was an action of complacency. I had been in Doha a little while and I got complacent. I would never have done what I did elsewhere. I thought my daughter was safe, but of course no child is safe in a car on their own. I am serious about my children and their safety.”

While Hicks said her daughter wasn’t physically injured in the incident, she is wracked with guilt over what happened.

“What I did was a mistake and I don’t think this is something that I will get over for a long time,” she added.

The manager of Giggles Day Care, Natasha Moorcroft, told Doha News she would be writing to all parents of children at the nursery today to advise them of the incident to warn them not to leave children or valuables in their vehicles, and to lock their cars, even if they are only away for a few moments.

Children followed

Meanwhile, Doha College has today contacted all parents of pupils at its two campuses warning them that a number of students have been approached and followed by strangers in cars while walking home from the British school’s Al Waab campus.

Headmaster Mark Leppard said in an email to the school community:

“Despite (Doha) being extremely safe, we need to ensure we are vigilant and make our children aware… In the last few days it has been reported to the college that a couple of students walking home alone have been followed and even approached by strangers in cars.

The incidents that have been reported to us have taken place close to our Al Waab campus. The cars have approached students as they have walked past the crossing at Al Waab junction, opposite the American School of Doha and also on the road to the rear of JBK Compound.”

Leppard said that the incident has been reported to the authorities, but asked parents to advise their children of the potential dangers, and to report anything suspicious to the school management, recording the make of car and number plate if safe and possible to do so.

While the rate of reported crime in Qatar is relatively low related to other major cities internationally, incidents do occur.

Earlier this month, a British expat spoke out about a burglary at his standalone villa in Ain Khaled while his family was asleep upstairs, and warned residents to take basic precautions to secure the safety of their homes.

And in March last year, there was a spate of car break-ins around Doha. One resident, Annaline, told Doha News at the time about how her wallet was stolen from her unlocked car in broad daylight outside a nursery in Abu Hamour, while there are periodic reports of items stolen from cars outside schools and nurseries around town.