In an incident that many parents have described as “their worst nightmare,” a Doha College primary school student was hit by a car while crossing the street to get to school yesterday morning.
The girl had been walking with her mother and younger sibling from their car toward the school gate at around 7:30am when a silver Honda CR-V struck her.
The family was taken to the hospital by ambulance, and released hours later after receiving treatment.
It is not clear if the driver is a Doha College parent.
The accident comes weeks into the school year, and follows repeated warnings from head teachers across Doha to parents, to drive carefully in and around school campuses and be more mindful of pedestrians.
Letter to families
In a letter to parents yesterday about the accident, Doha College Principal Mark Leppard said:
“We have continually been requesting a far more vigilant approach to driving round the college, both at our West Bay and Al Waab campuses, and it saddens me that some individuals have not taken this advice and adopted a more respectful attitude towards driving in and around the college campus.”
Leppard urged members of the school community to take stock of their individual actions, and asked that they ensure they “drive with due care and attention,” avoid talking on mobile phones or speeding, and park in a safe and careful manner to reduce the chance of any future accidents.
He also requested that parents “ensure they cross the road in a safe manner to further reduce the risk of accidents.”
And in an appeal to help improve safety around the school, Leppard called on parents and members of the school to work as a community to report dangerous incidents, adding, “we all need to challenge poor driving behavior.”
As traffic increases in Doha, and many schools suffering from a shortage of parking spaces, other principals have also been urging their parents to be more careful when driving, parking and walking to and from school.
Yesterday, Doha British School Principal Terry McGuire also issued a traffic warning in his weekly newsletter sent out to parents. He said:
“I must remind you that the welfare of our pupils is our highest priority. Whilst drop-off and pick-up is much improved, there are still many parents and drivers who, despite repeated warnings and appeals, are still acting in a way that is creating a danger for others.
I will be relentless in the pursuit of those whose actions cause danger to the children.”
Some schools are also in talks with public works authority Ashghal to help improve the road layout in their surrounding areas with safety features such as more speed bumps and marked crossing points.
This is not the first time that a pupil has been hit by a car outside a Qatar school. In October 2009, five-year-old Dana Sakr died after she was struck by a car as she crossed the road outside the Lebanese School in West Bay.
According to a safety investigation by Northwestern University in Qatar journalism students, the police report issued at the time stated the cause of the accident was “ignorance and lack of attention, (and) driving with an expired training license.”
At the time, the 26-year-old driver was jailed for four days until he paid a QR10,000 fine, and his expired training license was taken from him for three months.
The NU-Q report added that several measures were taken outside the school to safeguard against other tragedies:
“Dana’s death precipitated changes in the Qatari school system. A security guard controls traffic in the area where The Lebanese School in Qatar, Qatar International School and Lycee Voltaire, Qatar’s French school, are located. Speed bumps, street lines, traffic signs and road divisions have been added to prevent traffic accidents in school areas.”
The proportion of pedestrian fatalities as a figure of overall road deaths fell from 32 percent in 2008 to 28 percent in 2012 here, according to figures in a report submitted by Qatar to the UN earlier this year.
But this is still some way short of Qatar’s goal of reducing pedestrian mortalities to 17 percent of road deaths by 2016.
Earlier this year Ashghal announced that it had issued QR600 million worth of road safety upgrades, including new pedestrian overpasses, better street signage and construction of additional lanes.
Improving safety in school zones was listed as a the top priority, as the authority aims to safeguard pedestrians in Qatar.
The country’s infrastructure faces multiple pressures, as the population continues to soar, with thousands of cars joining the roads each month. Meanwhile, there is increasing demand for more schools to be built to meet ease the pressure on waiting lists.