In a bid to curb bad driving in Doha, a group of students and researchers at Northwestern University in Qatar is developing a video campaign aimed specifically at local youth.
Earlier this year, the team won a grant from the Qatar National Research Fund for its project idea, “Chicken is for the birds: Changing the deadly driving behaviors of young Qatari men.”
As a first step, the group is researching the attitudes and behaviors of this segment of motorists for ideas on what it would take for them to modify unsafe driving practices.
Speaking to Doha News, lead researcher and assistant professor Susan Dun explained what would happen after her team holds several focus groups over the next few months:
“We will then design a message campaign designed to educate and change driving behaviors, primarily through short videos, that are based on what we learn from our conversations with Qatari men. In the final stage we will screen the videos throughout Qatar and engage the audience in talk backs where we can.”
As Qatar’s population grows, its roads have become increasingly congested. Compounding the problem is that some motorists simply don’t follow the rules. Incidences of tailgating, speeding or driving recklessly are often observed on the road.
Over the past few years, serious injuries from accidents have jumped, and road-related crashes have killed more than 200 people annually.
While bad driving is a problem that affects all nationalities here, Dun said that statistically, young Qatari men are particularly at risk for being injured and dying in road accidents.
“Qatari youth are the future of this country, so we want to help them learn to drive more safely in order to save lives. It’s important to note that this campaign started with a group of Qatari students who care deeply about this issue and wish to save lives of their families and fellow Qataris.”
Safety awareness campaigns are not new to Qatar. Last year, the Ministry of Interior rolled out “One Second Qatar” to educate motorists on the importance of wearing seat belts, using child car seats and not using mobile phones while driving.
And this fall, ExxonMobil Qatar rolled out a road safety campaign urging Doha drivers to hang up while behind the wheel.
What do you think about our Road Safety awareness campaign? pic.twitter.com/fIiQBewrN5
— ExxonMobil Qatar (@exxonmobil_qa) October 4, 2014
Residents, however, have long questioned the efficacy of such awareness campaigns.
In late 2012, the majority of more than 4,000 residents surveyed by the MOI said the best way to tackle bad driving in Qatar was to increase police presence and enforcement on the roads, as well as teach people the basics of driving culture.
Earlier this month, the nation’s traffic chief pledged that an increase in patrols was on the way.
Saving even one life
Dun acknowledged that a new video campaign would “not change an entire country.” But she added that the aim to be reach at least some drivers, and that “a coordinated effort between road design, law enforcement and message campaigns would be the best.”
One of the researchers on the NU-Q project, Syed Owais Ali, agreed, telling Doha News:
“I have been living in the region for the past 14 years, and I have had first hand encounters to problem we are tackling.
What I love about this research project is that it extends beyond just the measurements, and we use the data gathered to construct and produce a persuasive message for the public. We often discuss in our team meetings that even if we manage to save one life, we would be successful and that idea is very powerful to me.”
The NU-Q team will conduct focus groups over the next several months, and the video campaign is expected to be introduced in May of 2015.
Qatari men ages 18 to 25 years old who regularly drive or have participated in stunt/high speed driving are invited to participate in the study. Those are interested can contact Dun at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Note: This article has been updated to correctly reflect the spelling of Prof. Susan Dun’s name.