School buses: Menace to Muscat streets

Like most of the citizens and residents of this beautiful country, I was appalled and distressed upon hearing the news of yesterday's tragic events in which three young people died and many more were injured. My prayers and thoughts go to everyone affected by this tragedy, particularly the parents and families of those who have died.

I have attended more than 200 serious road traffic collisions (RTC) during my career in which innocent lives, young and old, have been lost and sadly, I have to say, needlessly.

I have witnessed the destruction of family life, the distress in the aftermath of having attended such incidents by the rescue service personnel.

We cannot eliminate all of these kinds of incidents but we can all take part in reducing their occurrence and potentially, saving lives.

I have been fortunate enough to reside in Muscat for almost three years and have lost count of the number of times I have seen school buses tearing around our streets, speeding, running traffic lights, their occupants standing up at the windows and their drivers using mobile phones.

It is quite usual for events such as yesterday's, to motivate people into action, to raise the awareness of the need for regulation and safety.

A campaign launched by the Muscat media last year highlighting the need for all children to have a designated seat and belt or an approved child seat in private cars raised the profile of safety and the need to protect our young people.

Unfortunately, I still see many children sitting on Mums lap, or standing between the front seats as Dad drives down the Express way at 120 kilometre per hour.

Anyone who has witnessed a high speed incident involving packed cars and unsecured passengers knows that these travellers become deadly missiles and inevitably these incidents end in death and misery.

How can we reduce the number of deaths on our roads? Legislation, education and co-operation! Our current legislation does not make it mandatory for public transport vehicles to be fitted with seat belts for every seat nor the wearing of those belts.

Enforcement of new legislation is costly and time consuming but mandatory. The aforementioned child seat campaign was met with cries of " not everyone can afford to purchase the seats" which I happen to agree with, so why don't the car sales companies in Oman offer free child seats instead of trivial, seemingly attractive, but worthless incentives?

The fitting of tachometers in vehicles used for transporting our citizens will help in managing and educating our drivers and assist our law enforcement services to investigate the causes of accidents.
Educating the public is easily achievable through campaigns in our media, big events (like the Muscat Festival), in our shopping malls, schools and our emergency services. Educating our decision and policy makers is a little more difficult but never impossible.

The co-operation between Government, industry, emergency services and the public is essential and achievable.

Steering committees, action groups, community leaders, workshops will all bring the right people together to effect the change needed.

Let us not wait until more innocent lives are lost before taking ownership of and facing the issue of unnecessary loss of life on our roads.

The author is the former UK Fire and Rescue Officer with more than 24 years experience and previously a Chief Fire Officer at the Fire College in Seeb, Muscat. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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