Teenage drivers as young as 16 are being blamed for causing a large number of accidents on the roads of Oman, as many of them continue to get behind the wheel without a valid driver’s licence, according to a study conducted by researchers at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU).
One out of three secondary school students claimed they had driven a vehicle on the Sultanate’s roads at least once while not having a licence. Among the 3,345 secondary school students surveyed, 34 per cent also admitted that they liked to speed while driving.
Police this week blamed the influence of video games for the disturbing trend.
“Video games, which encourage reckless and irresponsible driving, are the main reason youngsters are putting their and other people’s lives at risk,” an official from the Royal Oman Police was quoted saying in a local newspaper, adding that parents should keep an eye on what children are exposed to through media’s different channels.
The official said a lack of supervision by family members is also one of the contributing factors, which is a concern for police. Those found driving without a valid licence are jailed for 24 hours, have their vehicles impounded, and face a RO50 fine.
On the other hand, parents find it difficult to control their teenage children. “It is a passion for them to drive a vehicle from a very early age and I know someone who fled with the car when his father went to the washroom,” Nasir al Busaidi, a resident of Mabela told a local newspaper.
SQU’s study was conducted in collaboration with the General Directorate of Education in Al Batinah North and revealed some shocking facts. Based on the study, about 75 per cent of the school students drive, and 95 per cent of those don’t have a legal driver’s licence.
Hamed al Reesi, a PhD student at SQU, who is a part of the study, said males in the age group of 16 to 25 years accounted for maximum fatalities during road crashes in Oman, constituting 38.7 to 59.7 deaths per 100,000 capita.
A number of teenagers in Oman are guilty of driving at a very young age. One such teenager confessed driving at the age of 16 after she passed class 10. “I used to even go to the nearby shops to bring groceries when my elder brothers were not available,” the teenager was quoted as saying in a local newspaper.
In 2014, road safety campaigners called for the legal age for driving to be raised, claiming it would save lives. They also asked for restricted and supervised driving for new drivers. Statistics have revealed that as many as 234 youngsters aged between 16-25 died on roads in Oman last year, while 1,384 others were injured, accounting for a significant 29 per cent and 36 per cent of the total deaths and injuries in 2014.