By Ayman Adly/Staff Reporter
Pedestrian safety is a pressing matter that needs innovative and immediate solutions involving all residents of Qatar, particularly those who are new to the country, it is felt.
The issue involves key elements such as road design, awareness campaigns, law enforcement and the conduct of road users - both motorists and pedestrians.
A senior traffic official has pointed out that many newcomers to Doha were unaware of the country’s traffic rules and took time to get used to them. Such people would often come from remote villages or small towns where both traffic density and the speed of vehicles are low. Many of these people would end up getting injured while crossing the roads in Qatar or even run over.
The official stressed it was the responsibility of companies to brief new recruits on the traffic situation here and give them suitable instructions on road safety so as to make such workers aware of the risks involved in crossing roads.
Meanwhile, experts, too, have suggested that initiation courses on traffic rules should be conducted for workers before they start to move around.
Along with the callousness of some pedestrians, excessive use of mobile phones while driving and lack of pedestrian-friendly road infrastructure also add to the problem, say sources.
In a traffic awareness meeting, Traffic Department director Brigadier Mohamed Saad al-Kharji had likened those who would use their mobile phones while driving to those who would drive under the influence of alcohol. In such cases, motorists are unable to focus on the road as their attention is diverted, thereby posing a risk to themselves as well as others.
Some motorists, it has been found, use their smartphones while driving not only to call people but also to surf the Internet, send and read SMS and play games. This reduces their ability to respond quickly and properly to unforeseen situations on the road. At the same time, many pedestrians are also at fault as they cross roads dangerously.
The global status report on road safety (2013) points out that “pedestrians constitute a major group at risk of death, injury and disability, and that they are among the most vulnerable road users (along with cyclists and motorcyclists). Around half of road traffic deaths globally are borne by vulnerable road users and about a quarter are borne by pedestrians”.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), pedestrian fatalities account for 22% of annual global road deaths. WHO recommends that several approaches can be adopted to improve road safety for pedestrians, including effective legislation, community awareness campaigns, improved road lighting systems and “building appropriate sidewalks, crosswalks, refuge islands, speed bumps and platforms at bus stops”.
The Lusail accident, in which seven Asians were run over by a vehicle while they were waiting for their company’s bus, has once again brought the issue of road safety to the fore. Most of the victims were new to Qatar. The incident has also raised questions on road design and driving habits.