Editorial: Road accidents or human errors?

Updated 19 February 2016

Editorial: Road accidents or human errors?

A recent finding of a survey that 69 percent of motorists drive along talking into their phones is shocking. But it is no surprise. Most of us have seen drivers speeding along with their mobiles pressed to their ear with one hand, while with the other they are gesticulating wildly.
The survey by King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Center paints a dismal picture of road safety in the Kingdom. Our roads are the most dangerous in the world. On an average 20 people are killed in 1,400 automotive crashes every single day. Thirty-five others suffer often crippling and disfiguring injuries.
The survey found that the majority of road users — almost 60 percent — ignore traffic regulations. Some 12 percent admitted to disregarding traffic lights. A third of drivers do not bother with seat belts. And over 40 percent regularly exceed the speed limit.
Is it any wonder that Saudi roads are the most dangerous on the planet? Repeated government road safety campaigns are clearly failing to get the message across. This is because it is being communicated wrongly.
Time and again safety campaigners refer to road “accidents”.
An accident is something unforeseen which could not have been prevented. In reality there are very few accidents. On construction sites there are lists of rules and procedures that have to be followed. Workers should not be on site without a hard hat. If they are hit on the head by something, it is not an accident. It is an injury that has occurred because one or more people chose to flout basic safety practice. It was not an accident. It was an event that could have been avoided. Had the rules been observed, it would not have happened. Someone is to blame for that injury.
Yet when it comes to road safety, everyone — media included — insists on referring to car wrecks as “accidents”. This is, in every sense, a fatal error. It suggests that nothing could have been done to avoid the crash. It gives the idea that what happened was beyond the driver’s control.
This is total nonsense. Every automobile driver has complete command of his vehicle. If it is in a collision, it is very probably his fault. This applies even when another motorist loses control of his vehicle and careers toward another. The driver of that other vehicle probably has the opportunity to recognize the danger and take avoiding action. Any wise motorist will slow down at intersections with traffic lights. There is always a strong chance that an idiot will ignore a stop light and collide with him.
It would be good if all the awful road behavior here could be blamed on young drivers. With their drifting and drag racing, they are clearly a menace. But culprits are of all ages, expats as well as Saudis.
And it is not simply the manner in which people drive. The upkeep of vehicles is also of concern. Despite established inspection regulations, vehicles can be seen every day which should not be on the road. Trucks are a particular problem. Overloaded, badly maintained and driven aggressively, they are a serious threat to other road users. The truck owners want to avoid the expense of proper servicing.
The Kingdom has a set of road traffic regulations as good as any country. Clearly the police could be doing a better job of enforcing them. Yet too often, when traffic cops do their duty, it is seen as an outrage. Look at the fuss over the Saher cameras. Not enough motorists are being charged with dangerous driving offenses.
This all boils down to short-sighted, even selfish behavior by far too many motorists. Common sense alone ought to dictate that driving sensibly is in everybody’s interests. There is no appointment so important that someone dies trying to get to it. If a driver has his wife and kids aboard, it is their lives as well as his that he endangers by driving like a lunatic.
Consideration for other road users, defensive driving with constant appreciation of road conditions all help avoid mistakes. None of this is possible if a driver is yelling into a phone pressed to his ear. When that vehicle smashes because of his lack of attention to the road, no way is it an accident. It is rather an act of dumb stupidity. More than that, it is actually criminal behavior. As such the driver should always be prosecuted.


Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

Updated 16 May 2019

Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

  • Arab News argues that while war is always a last resort, an international response is a must to curb Iranian meddling
  • US strikes worked well when Assad used chemical weapons against his people

The attacks on Tuesday by armed drones on Saudi oil-pumping stations, and two days beforehand on oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE, represent a serious escalation on the part of Iran and its proxies, should the initial conclusions of an international investigation prove to be accurate. 

Riyadh has constantly warned world leaders of the dangers that Iran poses, not only to Saudi Arabia and the region, but also to the entire world. This is something former President Obama did not realize until the Iran-backed Houthis attacked the US Navy three times in late 2016. The recent attacks on oil tankers and oil pipelines were aimed at subverting the world economy by hitting directly at the lifeline of today’s world of commerce. Tehran should not get away with any more intimidation, or be allowed to threaten global stability. 

It was in 2008 that the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz called upon the US to “cut off the head of the snake,” in reference to the malign activities of Iran. Nearly a decade later, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman referred to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the “new Hitler of the Middle East.” We are in 2019 and Iran continues to wreak havoc in the region, both directly and through its well armed proxies. Crown Prince Mohammed was therefore clearly correct when he argued that appeasement does not work with the Iranian regime, just as it did not work with Hitler. The next logical step — in this newspaper’s view — should be surgical strikes. The US has set a precedent, and it had a telling effect: The Trump strikes on Syria when the Assad regime used Sarin gas against its people.

We argue this because it is clear that sanctions are not sending the right message. If the Iranian regime were not too used to getting away with their crimes, they would have taken up the offer from President Trump to get on the phone and call him in order to reach a deal that would be in the best interests of the Iranian people themselves. As the two recent attacks indicate, the Iranians insist on disrupting the flow of energy around the world, putting the lives of babies in incubators at risk, threatening hospitals and airports, attacking civilian ships and putting innocent lives in danger. As the case always is with the Iranian leadership, they bury their heads in the sand and pretend that they have done nothing. Nevertheless, investigations indicate that they were behind the attack on our brothers in the UAE while their Houthi militias targeted the Saudi pipelines.

Our point of view is that they must be hit hard. They need to be shown that the circumstances are now different. We call for a decisive, punitive reaction to what happened so that Iran knows that every single move they make will have consequences. The time has come for Iran not only to curb its nuclear weapon ambitions — again in the world’s interest — but also for the world to ensure that they do not have the means to support their terror networks across the region. 

We respect the wise and calm approach of politicians and diplomats calling for investigations to be completed and all other options to be exhausted before heading to war. In the considered view of this newspaper, there has to be deterrent and punitive action in order for Iran to know that no sinister act will go unpunished; that action, in our opinion, should be a calculated surgical strike.