Enforce law to deter young traffic offenders in Oman

Opinion Saturday 05/March/2016 20:49 PM
By: Times News Service
Enforce law to deter young traffic offenders in Oman

Official regional statistics show that more people in their 20s die in road accidents in Oman than in any other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country.
The horrible road accident that resulted in the loss of 18 lives in Ibri last week is another testimony of how reckless driving in the Sultanate continues to claim the lives of young people. Out of the 18 dead, a third were below the age of 30.
Statistics also showed that about 53 per cent of all road accidents that occurred in Oman in 2015 involved drivers who are still in their 20s. The Royal Oman Police (ROP) blamed most of these accidents on driving beyond the speed limit, mobile texting, intoxication or just pure negligence. However, the official version did not match the views of road users. Though young drivers are the biggest offenders when it comes to driving and texting or even speeding, inadequate lighting, uneven road surfaces, poor markings, cross traffic, confusing signs and animal crossings also contributed to the horrific accidents.
During the rainy season, another deadly factor that authorities continue to take lightly are water puddles on the roads. More than 40 per cent of the 626 vehicle deaths in 2015 were caused by flooding.
Crossing wadis (valleys) after rains costs the lives of drivers of all ages, but young people lead the way. Drivers in their 20s are normally more reckless than any other age group and “wadi bashing” during the rainy season is one of their favourite pastimes. Since young drivers are at greater risk of dying on the road than other age groups in Oman, the problem is still largely unsolved.
Nation-wide communication campaigns that involve persuasive and even emotional messages directed at the driving habits of young people are badly needed. The underlying reasons, beside youthful driving adventures, are still debatable. Drinking and driving is one of them although most people in the country do not want to talk about it.
Young people go through a lot of emotional and psychological problems, which if not addressed properly, can spill out on the roads. Unsafe behaviour among young people is also caused by frustration in lack of achievements, such as problems with their education and careers. But authorities cannot be blamed if a young person decides to vent his anger on the road. However, law enforcement needs to be effective in Oman by targeting areas of particular risks for young drivers. If it is about life’s goals, communications and targeted campaigns can make radical changes to make them conscious of their personal tendencies.
It should start at schools because bad driving habits take root before a young person hits puberty. You don’t need a psychologist to tell you that.
The social context also helps and parents can play a big role. In Oman, parents are under pressure to allow their children to drive by the age of 17. By the time they are 18, parents buy them cars so they can drive themselves to college and university. While parents readily pay for the car, they fail to communicate with their children about road safety.
Parents defend their children’s need to make it to their classes on time, but they are not really concerned as to how fast they have to drive to be there. A deadly combination of road deaths in young people is the ownership of a car and a smart phone. Parents are happy to oblige for both.
Teachers at higher education institutions will tell you that almost every student in their class owns both. Law enforcement can determine through installed technology, whether a driver is texting while driving. With that evidence, the ROP needs to encourage victims of road accidents to pursue civil action. In Oman, civil action against offenders of road accidents is considered unethical. However, to punish reckless drivers, the government must enforce this law as compulsory. At the moment, car crashers get away with a light sentence only to come back to the roads to do it all over again.