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Al Rayah driving school

Lesley Walker / Doha News

Al Rayah driving school

With reporting from Riham Sheble

Hundreds of driver’s education students turned up for lessons and exams at one of Qatar’s biggest driving schools this week, only to find it had been closed suddenly.

Al Rayah Driving School in Al Messila shut its doors yesterday after receiving a court order from the Supreme Judiciary Council, which banned anyone from entering the premises.

Students who went there have found the gates locked, with copies of a legal notice attached and a note saying the school has relocated.

Al Rayah Driving School

Lesley Walker / Doha News

Al Rayah Driving School

Speaking to Doha News, some of them described “confusion and chaos” because they had not been given any notice of the move.

Legal notice

The court order came from the judiciary council’s office of confiscation, evacuation and selling.

It warned of legal action if anyone tried to open the door or enter the complex.

A separate handwritten sign said that the school had moved to Al Dallah Driving Academy – across town in the Industrial Area.

Notice of closure for site of Al Rayah Driving School

Lesley Walker / Doha News

Notice of closure for site of Al Rayah Driving School

Before it was shut, Al Rayah Driving School held lessons for up to 300 drivers each hour.

The orange and white learner cars were a regular feature on the residential streets of Madinat Khalifa and Bin Omran.

Doha News was unable to reach anyone from the school to comment on why the site was closed.

However, the popularity of the school caused congestion, particularly in the early mornings and evenings, provoking complaints from neighbors.

Learners’ confusion

One student, AR Nasser, was scheduled to take his test at Al Rayah this morning.

But he said he was called yesterday afternoon by his instructor, who warned him that the site had been shut down.

For illustrative purposes only

Lesley Walker / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

When Nasser went to the school yesterday afternoon, he said the gates were locked and he saw hundreds of people standing outside.

“It was so sudden. I wanted to find out what had happened. But there were no officials at the school to talk to – just some signs in Arabic on the gates.”

He added that many others who had shown up for classes seemed confused about what happened.

“One guy had paid thousands of riyals to the school for his lessons and he thought he had lost all his money. He was sitting on the ground, crying.”

Nasser, who speaks and reads Arabic, said he translated the signs to tell the crowds about the new location.

‘Chaos’

At 5am today, Al Rayah had buses ready to take people from its old location to the new site for tests and lessons.

“It was chaos – there was total confusion there. No one knew what was happening and they were all shouting,” Nasser recalled.

After some five hours, he eventually took his test and found out he passed.

For illustrative purposes only

Lesley Walker

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Another student was also shocked when he turned up at the school earlier today for his lessons, and found it closed.

The Indian engineer, who asked not to be named, told Doha News he had paid QR3,000 for lessons and was halfway through his course.

“I was so surprised. I didn’t know what was happening. I called my instructor and he told me about the new location. My lesson today was cancelled – now I am waiting to see when I can get more lessons,” he added.

Outside the school’s gates earlier this morning, there were around a dozen taxi drivers, explaining what happened and offering to take learners to the new school.

“It’s far for them, but it’s good for us!” said one taxi driver.

Were you affected by the closure? Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Satheesh/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

People working in some 240 professions are now barred from obtaining driver’s licenses in Qatar, according to a new list issued by the government.

The list has been updated in the past month to add some 80 new professions, driving schools who received the circular have confirmed.

They include pharmacy assistants, accounting technicians, photographer’s assistants, sailors and skilled tradesmen such as plasterers and electricians.

“There are so many people on the roads. Perhaps the government thinks there are so many professions which don’t need a driving license,” one instructor, who asked to be unnamed, told Doha News.

The list was updated by the Ministry of Interior (MOI), which first blocked some 160 jobs roles three years go.

The initial list focused on laborers and jobs related to the construction industry, but also included cooks, hairdressers, cashiers, grocery store workers and photographers.

Who’s affected

The new instructions were recently issued by the ministry’s Traffic Department to driving schools across the country.

The ban relates to job titles stated on the Residency Permits (RP) of individuals who are sponsored by a company.

The ministry has not publicly shared the list, but according to the Peninsula, other professions affected by the recent ban include: newspaper sellers, security guards, porters, shepherds, tailors, goldsmiths, agricultural workers, mining technicians and decorator’s assistants.

For illustrative purposes only

Lesley Walker / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Speaking to Doha News, Adel Salem, manager of Al Rayah Driving School in Al Messilah said that people with jobs on the list can’t get a driver’s license or take lessons.

He added the restrictions have hurt business, which is down about 20 percent compared to before the list was first introduced.

Busy roads

As the population grows and the country’s roads become more crowded, Qatar authorities have been working to improve driver’s training.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) announced a unified set of rules and regulations for all driving schools in the country, in an effort to standardize training.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Raja Raman/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The changes come amid a push to reduce the number of deaths and injuries as a result of traffic accidents in the country.

Government figures for the first half of this year showed that while the number of fatalities has fallen compared to the same period last year, there have been more injuries.

Qatar’s National Road Safety Strategy aims to cut the annual number of fatalities to 130 and injuries to 300 by 2020.

Thoughts?

Turn signal

Video still

Turn signal

Though it should go without saying, it’s safer to use a turn signal when driving than to change lanes without giving other motorists a heads up.

That said, Qatar residents have been given two widely shared public reminders this week about the importance of the practice.

The first video was published by the Ministry of Interior on its Facebook page on Monday. It urged those on the roads to make “proper use of indicators” to “ensure safe and risk free driving.”

The 37-second-clip shows an orange car unsuccessfully attempting to switch lanes without using a turn signal. When the driver does opt to use the indicator, a fellow motorist falls back and allows him to enter the other lane.

Stealth mode

However, in a recent self-proclaimed rant, Khalifa Saleh Al Haroon, co-founder of I Love Qatar, theorized that people don’t use their indicators precisely because it gives others advance notice of their intentions.

“Have you ever signaled from the right – and there’s a car to your right-hand side? The guy accelerates as fast as (he) can – he just floors it, right?”

Al Haroon added that perhaps that’s why some choose to change lanes in “stealth mode – before you give the guy warning to accelerate.”

Another reason for poor signal habits among drivers in Qatar, he said, was lack of enforcement.

“You can have all of the laws and the rules and the penalties in the world. But if you don’t actually have people enforcing the basics, then people are just always going to drive like schmucks.”

Instead of just talking about increasing fines, actually hand them out, he added.

Enforcement

Qatar residents have previously called for greater enforcement of traffic laws to combat aggressive driving.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Lubaib Gazir/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, one local driving instructor has suggested that solving the problem may be more complicated than simply stationing police officers at every intersection.

Roger Taylor, a defensive driving specialist in Ras Laffan, recently wrote an open op-ed that argued cultural changes are also needed to improve the safety of Qatar’s roads.

He said:

“Bad behavior stems from an attitude of selfishness, a total disregard for the law and the safety of others. However, that assumes that the person committing the offenses knows how to drive correctly, knows the rules, has the right attitude, and understands the importance of road safety.

If training, testing and enforcement are presented at a level where people do not understand how to apply the correct driving strategies, then they will make up their own or follow other people’s examples, which if we think about it, is exactly what is happening here in Qatar.”

However, Taylor added that “visible, physical and active deterrents” – such as police officers stopping speeding motorists and tailgaters, rather than relying on speed cameras – could also help change the behavior of motorists.

Thoughts?