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Al-Rayah Driving School/Facebook

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Many European and Australian residents are finding it harder to get a driver’s license in Qatar after the government tightened requirements last month.

These expats must now take a driver’s test and/or classes to get a license, according to several embassies that spoke to Doha News.

Previously, they only had to present the license they held in their home countries and take an eye test.

The change took effect on Jan. 1, but was not officially announced.

Who’s affected

However, officials from the British, French, Dutch, Australian and German embassies have confirmed to Doha News that the rules for their nationals have changed.

These residents are now required to pass a theory and practical driving test to qualify for a Qatar driving license.

Some expats have also told Doha News that driving schools have recently advised them of changes.

However, the new rules only apply to people who do not yet have Qatar driver’s licenses. Renewals of existing licenses do not appear to be affected.

Unannounced changes

It is unclear why the rules were tightened, but the move comes amid several other efforts to reduce the number of drivers on Qatar’s roads.

For example, a mandatory driving test was rolled out for US citizens in 2009.

Gulf Driving School

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A spokesperson from the British Embassy told Doha News that it was “liaising with local authorities to establish the reasons for the change.”

She added:

“We understand the new requirements apply to all nationalities previously able to exchange without a test, however license-holders should check with the Traffic Department.”

In the past, GCC citizens were also able to exchange their licenses without a test in Qatar, and it remains unclear whether this new ruling applies to them.

The UAE Embassy has not yet responded to a request for comment.

License restrictions

Qatar’s population has more than doubled in the past 10 years, putting a strain on its infrastructure and causing traffic congestion at peak hours.

Authorities have tackled this problem in a variety of ways.

Muhammad Kamran Qureshi/Flickr

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For example, the government has barred expats working in some 240 professions from obtaining licenses.

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

And last year, authorities announced that expats who held licenses issued in other GCC countries would no longer be able to directly exchange them in Qatar.

Also in 2016, the government decided that nationals from many African and Asian countries would now need to take driving lessons before sitting for a driver’s test.

Sebastian Wilke/Flickr

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Recently released government statistics show that all of these restrictions may be having some effect.

There were nearly 30 percent fewer new vehicles registered in Qatar in December 2016 than in December 2015.

Meanwhile, transfers of ownership – which reflect the state of the second-hand car market – were down just over 4 percent year-on-year.

Thoughts?

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If you think Qatar’s traffic is bad now, just wait until 2020.

A new report is predicting that an estimated 912,000 cars are set to be cruising down the country’s roads within the next three years.

That’s more than 200,000 extra cars on the road than there are currently.

And it translates into the highest percentage growth in passenger car use – 5.4 percent – of all GCC countries over the next five years.

This forecast from Alpen Capital’s latest GCC Automobile Industry Report comes despite recent mass layoffs, and concerns from Qatar’s car industry about a resulting slowdown in the market.

It also comes despite Qatar’s significant investment in public transport.

This is because the first stage of the country’s Metro system is not due to open until late 2019 or early 2020 – towards to the end of the period the report covers.

New car sales slowing

According to Alpen, Qatar registered over 86,000 new vehicles last year, a 9.3 percent increase on sales from 2010.

The report attributed this growth to “domestic opulence” and the country’s population, which has continued to climb despite falling oil prices.

NBKS

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However, the report’s authors acknowledge that the economic slowdown will have an effect on the new car market in the new couple of years.

They also point out that Qatar’s decision to vary the cost of fuel each month is also taking its toll on the demand for new vehicles.

With these points in mind, Alpen’s report stated that demand for new cars in Qatar will decline in 2016 and remain under pressure in 2017.

However, the market will grow in later years due to the expected increase in population and tourist arrivals ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

Most popular brands

The report also analyzed trends in the country’s car market, confirming that the majority of residents favor Toyota.

Toyota Qatar

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Thirty-seven percent of all new passenger car purchases in Qatar during the first four months of this year were from Toyota.

That’s an increase of 2.8 percentage points from the same period in 2015, the report said.

Second was Nissan, with 15 percent of new car sales, and Mitsubishi came in third with a 9 percent share of the market.

Thoughts?

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

The bi-annual Qatar Road Safety Monitor, conducted by polling agency YouGov for QIC Insured, polled dozens of drivers about their experiences over the past six months.

More than three-quarters (76 percent) said they saw more vehicles tailgating on Qatar’s roads in that time.

Driving in Doha

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The latest results were announced yesterday, and highlights drivers’ answers from August. The survey had a small sample size (118 people) but is “representative,” QIC said.

Distracted driving

Meanwhile, some 85 percent of motorists said they had seen more distracted drivers on the roads, with many using their mobile phones.

This is about on par with the 86 percent of people who said this habit was a problem on Qatar’s roads in the first edition of the survey, which was conducted in February and published in March.

According to government officials, driving while using a mobile phone is one of the leading causes of traffic accidents in the country.

Although it is illegal and can bring a QR500 fine if caught, enforcement remains patchy.

To better catch other violators, officials have previously announced plans to install cameras that can detect tailgating and turning left from the wrong lane, for example.

The Ministry of Interior has also been trialing a new type of speed camera hidden inside a police car.

Some improvement

Speeding also remains a key issue, according to nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of respondents.

However, this is down slightly from the 77 percent who reported speeding to be a problem in February.

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Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

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In a more marked improvement, more motorists appear to now be using their indicators and/or staying in their lanes while driving.

Some 70 percent of those asked said they saw more vehicles changing lanes abruptly and without indicating – down from 77 percent in February.

Meanwhile, just over half (57 percent) of drivers reported feeling that driving had become more dangerous over the previous half-year – down five percentage points from the first survey.

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Salem Al Mannai, deputy group President and chief executive of QIC MENA said the improvements were “encouraging,” but warned that much more still needs to be done to improve safety on the roads.

In a statement, he said:

“While the observed trends are mainly positive, further efforts in education, enforcement and infrastructure improvement are needed by all stakeholders, public and private entities and media to inculcate the culture of road safety in Qatar.”

Better roads

On another positive note, fewer people are reporting congestion on the roads.

Some two-thirds (67 percent) said their morning commute was taking longer than before.

Newly opened Civil Defense signal

Ashghal

Newly opened Civil Defense signal

In February, three-quarters of respondents (76 percent) said their journey times had increased over the previous six months.

And a higher percentage of motorists said their driving enjoyment had improved – some 38 percent, compared to 30 percent in February.

Part of this may be due to several new roads coming online in recent months.

Over two-thirds (68 percent) of drivers in the latest study reported an improvement in Qatar’s road infrastructure during the previous half-year.

Dukhan Highway East works (2015)

Ashghal

Dukhan Highway East works (2015)

This is up from the 60 percent who said they felt the same way in February.

The public works authority Ashghal has been working to build new routes across Qatar and update existing ones to improve capacity and reduce congestion.

One of its projects has been replacing roundabouts in Doha with signal-controlled intersections to make the junctions less dangerous.

You can see the full survey details on the QIC website.

Do you think road conditions are improving in Qatar? Thoughts?