Cycling odyssey across parts of Oman to highlight traffic safety. Words: Kate Ginn
By the time he reached Muscat City Centre mall, exhausted but ebullient, Khalid bin Mohammed al Shabibi had completed a very personal journey to spread the message about keeping safe on the roads.
The cyclist had covered more than 400 kilometres through wadis, roads and villages to deliver leaflets and advice to residents and anyone he came across during his travels.
Khalid is spearheading an awareness campaign on the need to take responsibility behind the wheel. Setting off from al Buraimi, he rode through Sohar and Al Khabourah to Barka, before the final leg into the capital, where he was met by a welcoming reception organised by the Oman Road Safety Association (ORSA), in cooperation with Bank Sohar.
Among those waiting to greet him were Mohammed bin Salim al Tobi, Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs; Colonel Ahmed bin Sultan al Nabhani, assistant director general of Muscat Traffic at Royal Oman Police (ROP); and the chief executive officer of ORSA, Shaima Murtadha al Lawati.
While the grown-ups were discussing road safety, children were having a go at putting it into practice. A ‘Traffic Safety Village’ with mock roads, zebra crossings, traffic lights and even trees had been set up in the mall, which young ‘drivers’ were able to navigate round and learn the rules of the road. This way, experts hope, they will develop an understanding of being safe drivers from a young age.
Under the theme ‘Be Safe…Be Responsible’, the road safety campaign was part of an ongoing campaign by ORSA and Bank Sohar.
Traffic accidents always increase during Ramadan and the ROP has called on all motorists to be extra careful on the roads over the next four weeks. According to police, 20 per cent of the 7,798 total crashes in Oman last year happened during Ramadan.
“During the holy month of Ramadan, we have noticed that a number of accidents take place due to reckless driving, mostly because of fatigue,” said an ROP spokesman.
“We urge drivers to observe utmost caution while driving in Ramadan.”
Speeding and changing sleeping patterns are to blame for many problems on the roads.
Afternoon is often the most dangerous time, when many public and private employees are taking to the roads and heading home at the same time to rest before breaking fast.
In 2011, 585 road accidents happened during Ramadan, killing 93 people.
Three years ago, the number of road injuries in the first half of Ramadan soared by 90 per cent, with 283 traffic accidents in Muscat alone during the first half of the month, in which 25 people died and 358 were injured.