Region's road hogs chalk up record results.

Author:Seymour, Richard


UNREALISTICALLY HIGH NUMBERS ARE killed daily on Middle Eastern roads, making it the second most dangerous territory in the world for road fatalities after Africa.

The majority of fatal accidents involve teenage drivers. Lack of driving experience can be attributed to this, but there are also other factors to consider such as the apparent inability of young people to stop using their cellphones, even when behind the wheel, distractions caused by in-car navigation systems and, of course, that most common cause of teenage deaths, especially among males, peer pressure.

Almost seven out of every ten accidents on the region's roads involve teenagers. So progress here would go a long way towards making roads safer.

Within the Middle East, Saudi Arabia stands out as having the most dangerous roads in the region and the official backing to prove it.

A study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that such accidents kill more Saudi males between the ages of 16 and 36 than anything else.

Because of its strict alcohol laws, driving while drunk is rarely a factor. What may count toward the high death toll is, in such a conservative country, the fact that there are restricted opportunities for young men to have fun.

Go to the video-sharing website, YouTube, and search for 'Saudi Arabia drifting'. You will be presented with numerous examples of young Saudi males performing stunts on busy public roads, which often end in high-speed accidents. 'Drifting' is when the driver of a car sends his vehicle into a controlled slide, though the idea of control is an illusion for most drivers, as the hundreds of spectators who line up to watch often discover the hard way.

But it seems that a general disregard toward road safety laws contributes to the large bulk of accidents and a lack of will among the local police force to clamp down on careless drivers who refuse to obey the rules of the road.

About a third of all accidents were caused, according to the WHO report, by drivers not stopping at red lights, while just less than a fifth were due to making U-turns. Add to that speeding, talking on the phone and a handful of other examples of carelessness, and a picture is formed of an easy-come, easy-go attitude toward laws put in place to protect the population at large.

Saudi Arabia is a huge market for expensive cars. It is not uncommon to see young males behind the wheel of Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis. But such cars, though built...

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