Mobile phone usage while driving continues to be the top reason people get into accidents in Qatar, a senior traffic official has said.
The only change in the many years that this has been a problem is that motorists who used to text or talk on their phone are now taking selfies and using social media apps, he added.
According to the Qatar Tribune, traffic awareness officer Lt. Fahd Mubarak Sherida Al Abdullah said that those who take photos of themselves and use Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp while driving are responsible for 80 percent of major accidents in the country.
“I have met people who got paralyzed or became disabled after receiving injuries in accidents,” he added.
Other causes of accidents that resulted in injuries included mistakes made by underage, unlicensed drivers, people who do not buckle up and pedestrians who don’t observe traffic rules, the lieutenant said.
Last year, Brig. Mohammed Saad Al-Kharji, the director-general of Qatar’s traffic department, told Doha News that investigators who are probing major accidents routinely reach out to telecom providers Ooredoo and Vodafone to find out if the driver’s mobile phone was being used at the time of the crash.
At that time, some 80 percent of those involved in accidents were found to be using their phones, he said.
Though using a phone while driving is illegal and can result in a QR500 ticket, there has been little progress in getting people to put down these devices while on the road.
However, there are some creative solutions that locally-based companies are now marketing, including new apps that would lock a motorist’s mobile phone while the vehicle is moving.
Some of these apps were developed by the Qatar Mobility Innovations Center (QMIC) as part of its Salamtek Initiative.
They rely on software that temporarily 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-locked phone.
A “beacon” can be installed on the driver’s side of the vehicle and detect whether the phone is in close proximity and being used by the operator or has been passed to a passenger and can be used safely.
Currently, the app can only be downloaded to android devices via the Google Play store.