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    Ashghal to identify and improve Qatar’s most dangerous roads

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

    Qatar’s public works authority has reportedly begun to identify the most collision-prone areas in the country, with an eye on fixing road design flaws – and ultimately reducing the number of road deaths here.

    According to the Qatar Tribune, Ashghal has prepared a list of “black spots” in Qatar – roads and intersections where collisions occur most frequently.

    Landmark signal
    Landmark signal

    A spokesperson for the government department was not immediately able to provide a copy of the document to Doha News, but the Tribune identified several interchanges on the list, including:

    • The intersection of Dukhan Road where it meets the temporary truck route. The Tribune said additional signage would be added to direct motorists;
    • The Al Huwailah junction at Al Shamal Road in northern Qatar; and
    • The Landmark Mall junction at Al Shamal Road.

    Qatar authorities have previously discussed revamping the Landmark Mall junction.

    In 2014, a video – since removed from YouTube – was circulated showing a proposal by engineering firm KEO International to redesign the intersection so motorists could enter and exit the expressway without crossing a set of traffic lights.

    A source told Doha News at the time that the government had approved the plan and was pre-qualifying firms for the project, but no progress has been made since then.

    Doha News asked residents the intersections and roundabouts where they see the largest number of collisions and close calls. Here’s a sample of what they said:

    Trouble spots

    For the past several years, traffic safety experts around the world have debated whether tackling “black spots” is an effective way to reduce serious collisions.

    A 2001 report for the UK Department of Transport, titled the Road Safety Good Practice Guide, said that even a three-year spike in collisions in a specific area could simply be chalked up to a random fluctuation.

    The report added that the number of crashes could decline in subsequent years whether traffic authorities attempt to “fix” the road or do nothing.

    Similarly, the Australian government conceded that “in some cases, the high crash rates are due to chance rather than an underlying road safety problem,” but still concludes that its national black spot program has reduced fatal and casualty crashes at “treated” areas by 30 percent.

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

    Speaking to Doha News, one Qatar-based traffic consultant who asked not to be named noted that distracted driving – specifically using a mobile phone behind the wheel – is one of the leading causes of crashes in the country.

    This makes location-based collision reports less useful. The data could simply show where mobile phone usage has led to a collision, rather than highlighting a poorly designed stretch of road.

    “Everywhere in Qatar is a ‘black spot,’” he quipped.

    The consultant also noted that this strategy effectively requires authorities to wait until deaths and serious injuries mount in a particular area before taking action.

    Instead, he suggested a more proactive approach to finding roads in need of design fixes.

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

    Rather than relying on collision data, the consultant advocated for more “road audits” that involve constantly monitoring specific areas to see if motorists are having recurring challenges navigating particular intersections or stretches of road.

    Last-minute lane changes, hard braking and a chorus of horns from motorists could all be indicators that a road could be made safer with, for example, better signage or the closure of a service road entrance, he added.

    Government strategy

    Constructing “forgiving” streets and intersections is part of Qatar’s National Road Safety Strategy (PDF), which argues that streets should be designed so that drivers can anticipate the road ahead.

    The document, published in 2012, said the majority of crashes resulting in deaths or serious injuries in Qatar 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.

    Within urban areas in Qatar, the report noted that some major streets have been poorly designed without service roads and a high concentration of entrances and exits to businesses and side streets, which is considered particularly dangerous.

    Traffic statistics over the year
    Traffic statistics over the years

    The strategy aims for an absolute reduction in collision fatalities to 130 by 2022, even as the population increases.

    The number of people dying on Qatar’s roads jumped from 204 in 2012 to 246 the following year before declining to 238 in 2014.

    Preliminary government data for 2015 shows 212 people died during the first 11 months of the year.

    Thoughts?

    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.

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