What motivates Omanis to attend a seminar in Thailand that addresses road safety in Asia? The Global Road Safety Partnership had the privilege to discover the answer first-hand during the annual seminar. “In Oman, we have many more road crash and injury problems with vehicles, and many less with motorcycles and bicycles. The problem in Oman is mainly related to speed and improper driving”, explained Abdullah Ali Nasser Al Maniri, from the College of Medicine & Health Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University.
The reasons for road crash and injury may vary between Oman and Asian countries, but the need for road safety measures is the same, and there are valuable opportunities to exchange and learn from each context.
“I wanted to attend the seminar in Asia in order to meet other academics, and discuss how research could serve policy development for road safety in Oman”, stated Abdullah. “We want to learn about what the eastern region is doing, and how we could implement their practices in Oman”, affirmed Dr. Buthaina Haroon Al Kindi, Road Safety Research Program Director for the Research Council, Sultanate of Oman. “We are interested in building relationships, sharing knowledge and expertise and lessons learned, she says.
According to the results of a study conducted by Salim and Salimah, an Omani NGO, speeding and improper driving are two main risk factors and the leading causes of road crashes in the Sultanate. Abdullah and his colleagues from Oman also agree that road safety is ultimately a matter of sustainability and of building a road safety culture. There is a need for better enforcement and an improved road safety education system, especially to train young drivers.
“Car crashes are on the rise in our country and it is a real tragedy”, stresses Islam Al Bulushi, a doctoral student and lecturer at the Oman Institute of Public Health.
Oman has one of the highest traffic crashes in the world, according to the World Health Organization. There is widespread consensus in the Sultanate to address the issue, accompanied by a strong political will, including the commitment of the Sultan himself.
And starting with the Decade of Action in 2011, progress has already begun. The government is currently launching a road safety audit, in order to identify the problems and evaluate where improvements can be made. The Research Council is funding research on road safety ascertain the challenges confronting Oman, and the National Road Safety Committee is discussing methods for continued involvement in the Decade of Action. This work is accompanied by the improvement of the infrastructure and the renewal of road safety legislation.
“All these efforts will really help focus the attention of the people, and the direction of efforts in terms of where the gaps need to be filled”, says Abdullah, full of hope for successful outcomes. Islam Al Bulushi affirms, “if a ship has two commanders, it will sink. Everyone must meet and define their roles and responsibilities and establish a strategy. This is the only way we can reach results.”