Tougher rules boost compliance of traffic laws, say safety experts in Oman

Oman Sunday 05/March/2017 19:50 PM
By: Times News Service
Tougher rules boost compliance of traffic  laws, say safety experts in Oman

Muscat: Six months after harsher rules were brought in to punish drivers using their phones, safety campaigners and road users say things are improving.
Enforcement of the new laws began on September 6, and introduced harsher penalties for reckless driving, including speeding, drunk driving, and using a mobile phone while driving.
Ali Al Barwani, head of the Oman Road Safety Association (ORSA), said the new laws were good for the country.
“The laws were introduced after years of awareness campaigns from the Royal Oman Police (ROP) and ORSA about safe driving, from multiple channels. Penalties are important because they guarantee safer roads to all of society, and they only affect those who want to endanger our families and children through reckless driving,” Al Barwani said.
The new traffic laws introduced hefty fees, along with jail time for offenders.
Mobile phone use while driving can be fined for up to OMR300, and violators can be sentenced to 10 days in prison.
The Times of Oman asked the general public about whether the use of mobile phones while driving has declined since introducing the seemingly harsh traffic law, and received varying reactions.
Some respondents believe that instances of mobile use while driving have fallen, and offered thanks to the Royal Oman Police.
Mukesh Dey said, “Yes it has been reduced, and I personally am glad to witness this change – I want to thank ROP for working for our safety.”
He added,“(Although) I do see, at times, people using their phones, but it has considerably been reduced, which means the law is a big success.”
Al Barwani noted, “They have served the community as a whole, because while there are always going to be safe, disciplined drivers, there are others who do not commit to these safety laws, even with the dangerous consequences.”
However, many of the respondents say that mobile phone use whilst driving has not changed, despite the harsher punishments.
Arbab Arshad, a resident of the Sultanate said, “I didn’t notice any change at all. Drivers are were using them a lot, even before the law changed. It didn’t bother them at all.”
Similarly, Wahid Khan said, “I don’t think there has been any change in phone usage while driving, despite stringent rules and punishments. You can still see drivers texting and calling while driving, though the number of people seen using earphones definitely has increased.”
Others believe that people are still using their mobile phones while driving, however, they are more cautious.
“People are just more cautious as to not be spotted by the police, but still continue to use (mobile phones). This shows the mentality of most people, who are afraid of being fined, but not thinking that it could cost their lives,” said Mufied Al Jabry.
Al Barwani explained that change does not happen overnight.
“As police forces develop better means to catch violations, including new technology and systems, we will surely see development in catching those who still attempt to get away with breaking the law,” he said.
The traffic law states that the minimum punishment for those who speed, drive recklessly, or endanger others’ lives and property, will be 10 days in prison and a OMR100 fine. The maximum punishment, considering the circumstances defined in the law, is set at 2 years in prison and OMR 3,000 fine.
Tariq Al Hadidi noted, “This issue is a worldwide issue, and along with tougher penalties, must come education to review our habits. We don’t have to look at the phone every time it makes a sound.”
Al Barwani also said that education and penalties should go hand-in-hand for the sake of Oman’s future.
“As time passes, more violators being caught will also deter people from engaging in dangerous actions. We will hopefully make our roads safer, as laws and awareness campaigns continue to be implemented. The change may be slow, but the consequences are costly,” he said.