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Vehicle deaths major killer in Saudi Arabia! February 2, 2010

Posted by Ashraf Faden in Environmental Health, Global Health, Health Communications & Marketing, Prevention.

According to the Traffic division of the Ministry of Interior in Riyadh, the average annual economic loss related to traffic accidents in Saudi Arabia is estimated at 21 billion Saudi riyals.  That is equivalent to $5.6 billion dollars a year.  In addition, Muhammad Humaidan reported in the Arab News newspaper in an article about traffic accidents in Saudi on December 14, 2009:

The number of people killed in traffic accidents in Saudi roads has risen almost 10 percent to just over 7,000 in the past year, according to Dr. Khaled Al-Eisa, supervisor general of King Abdul Aziz Hospital in south Jeddah. This figure works out at 19.1 death every day and makes the Kingdom’s roads some of the most dangerous in the world.

Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death in males 16 to 36 years as stated in a briefing on the Country Cooperation Strategy for the World Health Organization (WHO) and Saudi Arabia.  Furthermore, according to the Mortality Fact Sheet of 2006 by WHO, road traffic accidents are the fifth leading cause of death in Saudi Arabia.

Yet, car safety is not exactly strongly enforced in Saudi.

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What do you mean?  With all these data?  How is that possible?  I am assuming these are some of the questions that might be running in your mind right now.  Since I have been studying abroad for a number of years now, that is the sense of questionable feelings I experience as I observe cars on the streets every time I go home for vacation.  If you are in Saudi, or you have ever visited the country, you will probably understand what I am and will be talking about.

Unfortunately, there are many traffic safety violations occurring daily.  The one that scares me the most is the child’s car safety.  I still cannot comprehend the images of children running back and forth in the back seat of a car, the child’s stretched out arms and head out of the rear window of another passing car, or the image of a father driving with his daughter in his lap.  In my mind, those cars must have been super-safe to leave those children freely moving as they wish inside a big piece of a moving metal.  It is puzzling to me how the issue of car safety is not seriously taken by our society.  It is even more puzzling if you do use safety precautions, people might be annoyed if they ride with you.  For example, when we travel back to Saudi, we take our daughter’s car seat with us.  When people ride with us in the car, we might hear comments from some, such as “the car seat is taking up space.”  They might even suggest that we put the car seat in the trunk and let our daughter sit in their laps.  What is the purpose of a car seat again?

Having said that, however, it is not always a dark picture.  I did see several cars with children in their car seats and drivers insisting on putting their seat belts on.  So there are people who take car safety seriously, but some is not enough.  It is important that everyone abide by the safety traffic laws if we want to reduce those terrifying statistics mentioned above.  The laws are stated, including those relating to car seat belts and children’s car seats.  It is a traffic violation not to have your seat belt on or your child in a car seat. You can visit the website for the Saudi Ministry of Interior to read the complete lists of traffic laws.

The Saudi authorities understand and recognize the importance of the issue.  There are signs and billboards with important traffic safety messages on them.  There are traffic safety campaigns.  Traffic laws are somewhat enforced.  But is that enough?  May be not, especially with these terrible statistics.  Therefore, authorities might need to reevaluate their implementation of the traffic laws and proper enforcement should be reexamined.

However, it is not just the government role, like some might argue.  This is a public health matter.  Everyone is responsible.  For the least, everyone should be responsible for the safety of themselves and their loved ones.  It is not an excuse not to follow traffic safety even if the laws might not be properly enforced.



1. Sara Imershein - February 3, 2010

The sad part is you may choose to be safe, follow the rules…. but if another driver doesn’t you may still end up with your family injured in a car wreck.
Motor vehicle accidents are unfortunately, low priority in many developing nations – look at India and the former Soviet republics, too!

Ashraf Faden - February 6, 2010

I always wonder how you make people feel the sense of responsibility??!!

2. Gretchen Giannelli - February 5, 2010

The most disturbing part of this is that children are being endangered. Adults can make their own choices however incorrect, but helpless children need protection..

Phase I of a new program could be increased and broader messaging to promote proper use of child safety seats and use videos to show parents how to protect children. Safety experts could invite parents to bring their carseats to centers to show them how to install and use child safety seats, which are not always easy to figure out. (Some US studies showed that many parents used car seats incorrectly)

Phase II might involve periodic road blocks set up to screen and fine drivers without child safety seats, much like police do here in the US to screen for drunk drivers Failure to comply might mean heavy fines would be levied and parents would have to attend a short educational workshop on how to use the car seats.

Ashraf Faden - February 6, 2010

Thanks Gretchen. That’s a thoughtful response. If you don’t mind, could you please copy and paste your comment under the same topic at this blog?

Thank you.

3. colleen - February 7, 2010

Perhaps the Saudi government should consider allowing women to drive.

4. SusieOfArabia - February 12, 2010

It’s one of those most confusing aspects of this society that I just can’t understand – how much the Saudis treasure their children but leave it to God’s will whether he will protect them or not in a moving vehicle. What is wrong with taking a few small safety measures when statistics clearly show that a little effort goes a long way in reducing traffic fatalities?

5. Ayad Altaai - January 3, 2012

Realization of a problem and acting upon it are two diffrenet issues. RTA in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) have to be looked at from a macro and micro prespectives. This unfortunately is not the case at present (Jan, 2012). The United Nations Earth Summit of 1992 required all countries to submit a National Strategy on Sustainable Development (NSDS) to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. Developed countries, and some developing countries started submitting their NSDS documents in 1994. KSA has not submitted its NSDS, yet, as many other developing countries. Once a realization of this critical fact is eatablished and acted upon, then RTA will be dealt with in an entirely different approach. However, it is to be realized that an RTA in KSA is registered only at the spot. Therefore, the real magnitude of RTA in KSA should be scientifically and professionally questioned. Establishing the real and accurate base line for an effective policy, strategy and plan of action is a pre-requisite for a sustainable safe mobility vision and successful solutions. Above all, Children safety should be given priority in the promotion of a sustainable road safety process. Finally, sustainable development in any country cann’t be achieved with an unsustainable transport system.

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