Qatar has the world's highest fatality rate resulting from traffic accidents relative to its population, according to a study released February 22nd by Qatar University.
Despite new measures undertaken by local authorities to curb daily traffic accidents, the number of registered traffic accidents in Qatar remains high, the study reported. The study, funded by the Qatar National Research Fund and conducted in collaboration with the Qatari Traffic Department and the Qatari Statistics Authority, predicted the number of traffic accidents in the country will near 220,000 annually by 2015.
"Despite an abundance of programs, awareness campaigns on how to drive more carefully, as well as studies and seminars, traffic accidents and the injuries and deaths resulting from them are on the rise. This has deeply affected many Qatari families and has been worrying all local institutions," said Dr. Mahmoud bou Tafnoushat, supervisor of the study and head of the Mathematics, Statistics, and Physics Department at Qatar University.
The yearlong study showed that lack of concentration, miscalculation and speeding are behind half of all traffic accidents in Qatar.
Officials from the Traffic Department said an increasing number of vehicles as well construction projects on roads throughout Qatar have also affected the rise in traffic jams and accidents. There were 814,373 registered vehicles in Qatar in 2011 compared with 771,325 in 2010, according to Lt. Abdullah al-Mirri, a Traffic Department employee.
"There is no doubt road accidents are high despite the fact relevant authorities are doing everything possible to ensure safety on the road," he said. "However, certain factors that increase the number of road accidents [like construction and the number of vehicles on the road] are out of the control of the official authorities."
Still, 2011 witnessed a slight drop in the number of fatalities resulting from traffic accidents compared with the previous year, al-Mirri said. Ministry of Interior statistics showed the number of deaths reached 205 in 2011, compared with 226 deaths in 2010.
Al-Mirri said stricter traffic laws were the reason behind the drop, including a 2007 traffic law that introduced new regulations, toughened penalties for offenders, and enforced on-the-spot fines for traffic violations.
The study also reported that 50% of accidents are caused by drivers who have less than six years of driving experience. Abdullah Fayez, a public relations director at a driving school in Qatar, denied the claim that driving schools turn out drivers who are ignorant of many of the traffic rules, as well as the ethics of driving.
"It is common knowledge that obtaining a driver's license in Qatar is one of the most difficult issues facing a citizen or a resident," Fayez said. "We rely on very strict teaching method and the driving test is extremely difficult. You might be a skilled driver in your country but fail the test in Qatar".
"There might be some driving schools that are lax when it comes to teaching the basic traffic principles, but you will inevitably be tested by traffic officers and it would not be possible to pass if you do not know how to drive," he said.
Talal al-Amiri, a Qatari national who works at Qatar University, lost one of his legs in a road accident he blamed on his own reckless driving.
"I was driving on the North Road coming from Doha at ten o'clock in the evening and the road was empty," al-Amiri told Al-Shorfa. "After passing the traffic camera, I increased my speed up to 200 kilometres."
Al-Amiri said a pothole that had not been there earlier in the day took him by surprise.
"I tried to lower my speed," he said. "But I fell into the hole and lost control of the steering wheel as I crashed into a concrete barrier."