GCC roads are becoming safer to drive on, but improving road user behaviour standards, and introducing a graduated driver licensing scheme will help a sustained reduction of road fatalities on the region’s highways, said a road safety expert.
Simon Labbett, director of the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) UAE, said that while much of the Gulf region is developing strategies to improve road safety, a sustained improvement is still a long way off.
According to the Pulitzer Centre’s Roads Kill map, published with World Health Organisation statistics, Bahrain is the safest of all Gulf nations for road users, with 10.5 road deaths per 100,000 population, compared with 12.7 in the UAE, 13.2 in Qatar, 16.5 in Kuwait, 24.8 in Saudi Arabia, and 30.4 in Oman. In context, the USA has 11.4 road deaths per 100,000 population, the UK has 3.7, while Sweden has the world’s safest roads at 3.
“Our roads are becoming safer but this is not yet sustainable,” said Labbett. “Quick gains are the easy part; sustaining the change is harder and we should not become complacent. Road safety is complex and will likely take decades of concerted effort to reach highest levels that can be achieved, but this will only happen if the Gulf region maintains the commitment it has started.”
Labbett further added that young GCC nationals between the ages of 18 to 24 show a disproportionate level of risk to be involved in road accidents along with vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, while road behaviour standards in general across region are still unacceptable.
The need of the hour is development of a graduated driver licensing schemes – whereby licenses are awarded through a tiered system based on driving experience and competence. This has proven to be effective in curbing young drivers from being involved in road accidents.