Sustained GCC road safety gains are far off - expert
GCC roads are becoming safer to drive on, but improving road user behaviour standards, and introducing a graduated driver licensing scheme will help a sustained reduction of road fatalities on the region’s highways, a road safety expert has said.
Simon Labbett, director of the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) United Arab Emirates, said that while much of the Gulf region is developing strategies to improve road safety, a sustained improvement is still a long way off.
According to the Pulitzer Centre’s Roads Kill map, published with World Health Organisation statistics, Bahrain is the safest of all Gulf nations for road users, with 10.5 road deaths per 100,000 population, compared with 12.7 in the UAE, 13.2 in Qatar, 16.5 in Kuwait, 24.8 in Saudi Arabia, and 30.4 in Oman. In context, the USA has 11.4 road deaths per 100,000 population, the UK has 3.7, while Sweden has the world’s safest roads at 3.
“Our roads are becoming safer but this is not yet sustainable,” said Labbett, who will be speaking about current regional road safety trends and mechanisms for enabling change at the Gulf Traffic Conference, taking place from 9-10 of December at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
“Quick gains are the easy part; sustaining the change is harder and we should not become complacent. Road safety is complex and will likely take decades of concerted effort to reach the highest levels that can be achieved, but this will only happen if the Gulf region maintains the commitment it has started.”
The Gulf Traffic Conference runs alongside the three day Gulf Traffic exhibition, which takes place from 9-11 December, and is supported by the Abu Dhabi Police and SAEED.
Labbett said that young GCC nationals between the ages of 18 to 24 show a disproportionate level of risk to be involved in road accidents along with vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, while road behaviour standards in general across the region are still unacceptable.
He added: “Anyone who uses our roads will have witnessed aggressive driving behaviours, flashing of headlights and drivers positioning their cars within half a car length of the vehicle in front whilst travelling at speed. This is unacceptable and highly dangerous; it disregards the safety of others and reflects very badly on our society.
“In other countries, the development of graduated driver licensing schemes – whereby licenses are awarded through a tiered system based on driving experience and competence – has proven to be effective in curbing young drivers from being involved in road accidents. Adopting a local approach to such schemes can protect our young drivers and other road users as well.”
TRL, the knowledge partner of Gulf Traffic, has been in operation since 1933, and has had a permanent presence in the UAE since 2007. The organisation recently launched a Gulf Road Safety Student Award which has attracted in excess of 200 student nominations from across the region sharing their ideas to make roads safer for all users.
The winner will be celebrated at a prestigious gala dinner ceremony at the Gulf Traffic Awards on the 9th December – a feature of the Gulf Traffic exhibition and conference.
Organised by Informa Exhibitions, the tenth edition of Gulf Traffic will bring together more than 100 exhibitors from 20 countries involved in the design, build, and maintenance of the region’s road, rail, parking and public transport projects. The region’s foremost transport infrastructure event is supported by ITS Arab.