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    Ashghal commissions QR600M in Qatar road safety upgrades

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    Photo for illustrative purposes only.
    Photo for illustrative purposes only.

    New pedestrian overpasses, better street signage and construction of additional lanes are among the improvements likely to be rolled out as part of a new road safety initiative in Qatar.

    Engineering consulting firm CH2M Hill recently said it’s been awarded a contract under a five-year, QR600 million (US$164.8 million) intiative by Qatar’s public works authority Ashghal to implement a series of street safety improvement programs.

    The specific value of the CH2M Hill contract was not disclosed.

    Particular attention will be paid to rural roads, intersections and school zones, as well as to protecting pedestrians.

    The number of traffic accident deaths in Qatar has remained relatively stable in recent years, despite a booming population and an ever-increasing number of vehicles on the country’s roads.

    Some 104 people were killed on Qatar’s roads in the first six months of 2014, according to the Qatar Statistics Authority. That puts the country roughly on pace to experience the same number of fatalities recorded in 2011 and 2012, when 205 and 204 people were killed, respectively.

    However, the number of injuries from traffic accidents jumped 12 percent from 2011 to 2012. Traffic figures for 2013 were never officially released.

    As part of Qatar’s Road Safety Strategy, authorities want the number of deaths to fall to 130 by 2022.

    Similarly, the country’s National Traffic Safety Committee has set a goal of reducing the number of fatalities to six per 100,000 residents. In 2012, the comparable figure was nine deaths per 100,000 people, down from 13 per 100,000 people in 2010.

    A survey released in 2012 found that residents favored greater police presence and more stringent application of traffic laws to bring down the number of accidents on the country’s roads.

    The government appears to have taken steps to boost enforcement efforts through the creation of a dedicated highway patrol unit and installing radar cameras to catch speeders.

    While reducing reckless driving and speeding is an important part of making Qatar’s roads safer, local experts say addressing the design features found on streets around the country is also a critical step.

    Road design

    Qatar’s National Road Safety Strategy argues that streets should be designed so that drivers can anticipate the road ahead, which would help reduce the number of crashes. Roads should also be “forgiving,” so that collisions that do occur are less likely to result in serious or fatal injuries.

    The report also highlighted several challenges regarding Qatar’s roads, including:

    • No crash barriers: “The medians in urban areas often are planted with attractive trees, or contain lighting columns. If these obstacles are struck, then the crash is likely to be high in severity.”
    • Safety impediments: “There are often roadside obstacles such as trees, signs and lighting columns that are unprotected, and if struck the crash would be likely to be very severe.”
    • Poor layout. “Intersections in Qatar vary in terms of their suitability for the roads that they are used on. On some main urban roads where a service road has not been provided, there are a high concentration of accesses and parking directly on to the main road. This is considered to be particularly dangerous.
    • Lack of crosswalks. “Roads do not always have facilities for pedestrians to help them use the roads safely. Due to the high levels of construction, pedestrians often find that the facilities they are using are interrupted by construction sites. Parallel parking is provided on some divided urban roads, meaning that pedestrians have to interact with relatively high speed traffic.”

    The report added that the majority of crashes that result in deaths or serious injuries occur on high-speed rural roads, which lack features to help prevent vehicles from running off the road or median separators to avoid head-on collisions.

    What design improvements do you think would make Qatar’s roads safer? Thoughts?

    Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the CH2M Hill contract is only one part of a wider QR600 million Ashghal safety program.

    Peter Kovessy
    Peter Kovessy is a reporter with Doha News. Prior to moving to Qatar in 2013, he was the editor of the Ottawa Business Journal in Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Carleton University.

    18 COMMENTS

    1. A much cheaper and effective solution would be harsher penalties for unsafe driving (impounding the car for longer periods and revoking licenses) and, even more important, equitable enforcement of existing laws.

          • Little point?? The family of the 200 deaths might disagree. If I’m unfortunate enough enough to have an accident I’d much rather the road was designed with human mechanics & force in mind so I suffered a broken leg rather than a cracked skull. You are under the misguided belief that high enforcement means less rule breaking and thus less fatal accidents. Countries with high enforcement do not have the lowest road fatalities. By all means lets do enforcement, education etc etc but let’s do safe road design with saving peoples lives in mind, as well. Qatar is fortunate enough to have the money. Many countries like my home country, don’t have the money, and it always comes down to risk vs benefit. I’m sure you are a good driver and follow the rules 100% of the time, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be involved in an accident, I hope you walk away unscathed with minimal injuries and don’t hit the massive concrete square block on the road side holding the teeny weeny sign.

            • “You are under the misguided belief that high enforcement means less rule breaking and thus less fatal accidents.”

              I think that statement sums up your ignorance of the issue. If anyone caught on a mobile phone while driving was fined 3000 QAR (and actually had to pay it) and the license revoked for a week, mobile phone use would decline, and there would be fewer accidents. The same could be said of speeding, wearing seat belts, requiring children to be in car seats, etc. etc. etc.

              Countries that have such laws and enforce them have fewer accidents. No amount of planned intersections and barriers will help if people ignore the signal lights, speed, text while driving, overcrowd the vehicle, and don’t wear seat belts.

            • You are assuming that road fatalities are always caused by people breaking the rules. This is the “traditional” view of road safety but the industry has evolved beyond this. Studies were done decades ago by Scandinavian countries (with high enforcement) to find out why there were still fatalities occurring and it found that even if drivers followed the rules 100% of the time it only reduced fatalities by 50%. This has also been supported by studies in Australia. So what can we do to save those 50%? Those people who simply made a mistake? Pulled out of the T junction at the wrong second (yes they were indicating), tried to walk across a busy road, overtook (yes they were indicating and doing the correct speed) and misjudged the speed and had a fatal head-on. What can we do to save the people who were not at fault, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Road Safety professionals want to save those people too. The Safe System approach to road safety has been widely adopted including much of Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, NZ and recently Qatar. The approach recognises that humans, as road users, are fallible and will make mistakes which will result in crashes. It requires that road infrastructure be designed to take account of these errors and vulnerabilities to reduce the risk of serious injury. The UN’s Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 provides a guiding implementation framework based on the Safe System principles for developing countries and the 5 principles are widely available on the internet. Road Safety of course involves laws & enforcement, it is effective for the majority of the population, but why not do all that we can?? One doesn’t have to precedent the other, we don’t have to have 100% perfect enforcement before we can use some of the other tools in the toolbox to save a life. Go to the ITS & Road Safety Forum 21-23 September at the Doha, Ritz and you can learn what international road safety professionals are doing to save everyone’s life on the road, even the one’s that break the rules and the ones who just made a mistake.

            • “You are assuming that road fatalities are always caused by people breaking the rules.”

              No I am not. But I am saying that people who violate the rules and drive unsafely significantly increase the changes of accidents on the road. Study after study has shown that such things excessive speeds in congested areas, texting while, phoning while drive, not wearing seat belts, not using car seats for child (all illegal in Qatar) substantially increase the risk of accidents and fatalities on the road. Would eliminating all of these things mean no accidents? Of course not. But the number of accidents and fatalities would plummet way below the effect that infrastructural changes will have. This is a country in which the number one cause of death is in a road accident, and yet large swathes of the population continue to refuse seat belts for themselves and car seat for their children (unlike the counties you mentioned).

            • Unfortunately Article 54 only stipulates “Drivers of vehicles and individuals
              occupying the front passenger seat are obliged to use seat belts while the
              vehicle is in motion” (English translation) and even
              more unfortunate for kids, car seats are not mandatory, the only provision for
              children being Article 55, Point 3 “Drivers are required to abide to the following: Prohibit children under
              the age of ten from occupying the front passenger seat while the vehicle is in
              motion on the road” (English translation). I agree with you, mandatory seat
              belting of all occupants and mandatory car seats for kids is the single most
              important thing Qatar could do to reduce fatalities on the road, circa 20-30
              kids die a year, the majority unrestrained. Then, yes, it needs to be enforced.
              We could endlessly debate coulda, woulda, shoulda and the proverbial chicken
              & egg – but if you enforce you don’t need engineering, however Road
              Authorities live in the here and now. If you called the Ashghal Customer
              Service line saying there are idiots driving over 100km/hr passed your kids
              school and last week a kid was injured, what are you going to do about it? And
              the customer service ladies reply was “sorry sir we are waiting for the
              required legislation & penalties to be put forward for school zone speed
              limits, then we need to wait for it to be agreed, approved, become gazetted,
              then we need for MOI to train the police on the law & sufficiently motivate
              them to get off their backside to enforce it. Then we will wait sir for an
              educational campaign to be contracted out, developed and implemented to educate
              the public, then sir, we need to wait for wasta to be engineered out of the
              penalty system & Qatari culture, making it impossible for people to avoid
              fines. Once that’s completed sir, we can look into the issue for you”. Now
              rather than wait, what 5 years for that? Ever? Road Safety professionals know
              they could install speed reducing and road calming treatments that would make it virtually impossible for a
              vehicle to travel more than 40km in front of the school and they could do it
              and start reducing incidents within a month. From “western country” studies
              they would also know that this road treatment would “pay itself off” after 18
              months against the wages of a policeman to visit the site 3 times a week with a
              speed gun and no treatments installed (this enforcement however would only be
              mostly effective for the actual time the policeman was sitting there). They
              would also know the road treatment physically reducing speed of the drivers is
              more effective, say 98% , than a permanent speed camera because there is a
              portion of the population that just don’t care zoomed right on through, didn’t see the sign, prepared
              to pay the fine was in a rush for a meeting, or was changing the radio station
              at the time, let’s say 90% effective and 10% of drivers are still breaking the
              speed limit and at risk of harming the public. Now I don’t know about you, but
              I’m driving in Qatar – today – not in 5 years time if/when Qatar sorts out its
              enforcement and if a road authority wants to make a road more survivable today,
              I think it’s a good idea and money well spent.

    2. Engineering can only do so much. Although the proposed changes are good in principle without more education and a lot more enforcement it will be money wasted.

    3. “The medians in urban areas often are planted with attractive trees, or contain lighting columns. If these obstacles are struck, then the crash is likely to be high in severity.”

      Urban areas are not race tracks either. No one should be driving at such a speed that it would be high severity. You have laws in place for this kind of behavior. Enforce the current laws instead of spending so much money on making environmental changes for the few that violate those laws.

    4. I must congratulate Ashgal. Since the change in management a few years ago, they are certainly heading in the right direction and have the money to back up their ambitious plans. The infrastructure has certainly improved over the last 10 years

    5. Just read the National Road Safety Strategy and it is a very well put together comprehensive document. Good luck if the targets can actually be reached. A whole different way of thinking has to be adopted, firstly seatbelts have to be worn, children need to be restrained and the law needs to be enforced otherwise the targets will simply not be met and people will continue to die. Hard task as it needs a cultural shift in both residents, locals and it needs a huge culture change, and overhaul of policing. I applaud Qatar for actually putting the effort into the strategy and hopefully it will be a success.

    6. One very positive road safety change that should be made is vehicle inspection and testing. Many accidents involve cars and trucks, especially light trucks, with worn out tires, inadequate brakes, worn suspensions, etc. Daily one sees vehicles which obviously would not pass such testing.
      If Qatar wishes to be considered a developed country, join the ranks of those countries, almost all of which have some form of testing..

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