In its latest animated public service announcement, the Ministry of Interior has warned commuters to stop taking advantage of ambulances as they try to make their way through Qatar’s congested roads.
Motorists should move their cars to clear a path for emergency vehicles, but leave it at that, the MOI states on Facebook, adding:
“Some are trying to be ‘over-smart’ by following the emergency vehicle to escape from traffic queues. It’s totally unacceptable behavior and it will further create traffic chaos while it violate rights of other road users.”
The advice has gotten more than 2,100 hundred shares since it was posted yesterday, with some commenters calling for violators to be fined.
Taking advantage of the clear path created by an ambulance appears to be against the law. Those who drive “behind emergency vehicles and not maintain at least 50m of space from that” are liable for a QR500 fine.
With thousands of cars being added to Qatar’s overcrowded roads each month, emergency vehicles here increasingly struggle to get through traffic, especially during rush hour times.
Qatar’s public works authority has been tackling this problem by installing technology in traffic signals around Doha that allows them to be changed from red to green by first responders as they approach the intersection.
Another challenge facing ambulances here – and hospital emergency departments – is that the vast majority of calls placed to 999 do not involve life-threatening situations.
Late last year, a senior Ministry of Interior official said that only 10 percent of the calls received on the emergency line merit immediate, urgent care.
This is in part because of calls from children, but also because many expats cannot afford to seek treatment at the country’s private clinics and hospitals, one long-time emergency room doctor in Qatar said.
Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that chasing an ambulance is indeed against the law, and punishable with a fine.