Risk Factors

Road traffic risk falls into 4 categories; 1) factors influencing exposure to risk, 2) factors increasing crash involvement, 3) factors increasing crash severity, and 4) factors influencing severity of post-crash injuries.

Exposure to risk

A combination of economic factors unique to Oman and other GCC countries have a major impact on exposure to risk. These include:-

  • The coming of age of an overwhelmingly young population (64% under 21 years), for whom driving is the defining rite of passage
  • The government’s drive to create employment for nationals including the omanisation of commercial vehicle drivers’ jobs
  • Limited alternative public transport options
  • Relaxation of loan terms for car purchases
  • Increased wealth and government spending generated by higher oil revenues
  • Growth of industry and tourism sectors
  • Increased urbanisation and expanding road network
  • Exponential increase in heavy vehicles and slow moving construction traffic on highways

Rapid motorisation (50,000 new vehicles per annum on the road) often cited as a cause of the rising toll of death and injury may aggravate the risk in Oman but this is not inevitable. The UK road safety strategy has succeeded in reducing fatalities by one fifth over a 40-year period i.e. 240 casualties per 100 million vehicle kilometers in 1964 to 55 per 100 million vehicle kilometers by 2005 despite a huge increase in the number of cars on an expanding road network.

Crash involvement

The main risk factor behind crash involvement in Oman is a licensing system which does not equip drivers with adequate practical or theoretical skills to drive safely on a public highway. Respect for speed limits is based on the driver’s perception of the threat of detection. Detection and penalties are minimal with the result that high speeds, 40-50 kilometres above the (comparatively high) posted sign limits, are the rule rather than the exception. Other risk factors include reckless overtaking on blind bends of rural roads and tailgating, fatigue, presence of medicinal or recreational drugs, alcohol, poor eyesight, travelling in the dark, poor vehicle maintenance and defects in road design and management of road construction activity.

Crash severity

Excessive speed and restraint usage are the two most powerful factors affecting crash severity. The law of physics dictates that a higher speed always leads to higher crash severity. The low usage of passenger restraints results in crashes with multiple fatalities as occupants suffer massive head and neck trauma from colliding with immense force against the car interior, other passengers or upon high-speed ejection from the vehicle. Poor vehicle crash protection, road gradient or curve, hazardous road sides/objects and the presence of drugs or alcohol are also factors increasing crash severity.

Severity of post-crash injury

Delay in detecting and emergency services reaching crashes in remote areas, delay in difficulty rescuing and extracting people from vehicles, presence of fire resulting from a collision and, increasingly, obstructions caused to emergency services by crowds of onlookers all increase the severity of post-crash injury.