JEDDAH: FADIA JIFFRY
Published — Sunday 15 September 2013
Last update 22 September 2013 3:04 am
With the highest rate of road accidents and fatalities in the region, the Kingdom has among the world’s most dangerous roads.
Statistics from the General Directorate of Traffic show that the Kingdom has 23 deaths per 100,000 people, with on average 19.1 road fatalities occurring daily.
“It is really a matter of lack of discipline, and no doubt better enforcement of speed limits and traffic laws would help,” says Glenn N. Havinoviski, associate vice president and transportation systems director of Middle East Operations, Iteris Inc.
“When you see people turning left out of the far right lane and traffic cutting through parking lots and frontage roads, there are clearly some issues with discipline, but there is also the issue of enforcement. Live police enforcement, as opposed to just cameras, is helpful.”
Havinoviski says that there needs to be an effort to really manage safety rather than just lumping safety and security together with technology. He adds that whether it is stricter driving schools or regular testing for drivers when they renew their licenses, there really needs to be a culture of safety introduced in the Kingdom.
“The infrastructure to me is not the problem but I see in urban areas that lane markings and the operation of traffic signals could be improved,” said Havinoviski. “Without clear lane markings, roads can be haphazard to travel on. People driving off-road to avoid congestion, which I've seen in Jeddah, is another example of bad behavior.”
The rate of traffic accidents per individual in the Kingdom is much higher than in developed countries. Experts predict that if the current rate of traffic accidents continue, the Kingdom may have four million traffic accidents a year by 2030. This means that a person will die on Saudi roads every hour in 2014 if the country’s accident rate continues at its current pace. There are approximately 7,100 road fatalities every year and 38,000 seriously injured individuals, of whom 7 percent are permanently disabled.
Recently, the Council of Ministers approved the National Strategic Plan for Traffic Safety that has a key objective of framing a national traffic safety policy specifying broad future traffic plans and measures to cut road accidents.
According to a study conducted by Hany Hassan, assistant professor of transportation engineering at King Saud University, there were 600,000 crashes recorded in the Kingdom in 2012, resulting in the death of around 7,638 people.