The means exist today to reduce significantly the costly and avoidable tragedy of road crashes. All countries which have managed to reverse the rising tide of road crash casualties share a new thinking; that crashes are largely preventable, man-made problems with rational solutions which are far more cost-effective than funding medical costs and rehabilitation for victims. The Global Plan building on the World Report 2004 spells out, for the entire global community, low-cost, tried and tested measures successfully used by high income countries to reduce road crash fatalities.

Countries which have targeted one or more of the main risk factors such as speed, seat belt wearing, distracted driving, fatigue, road design and infrastructure etc.. have succeeded in reducing road crash fatalities by 20-40 per cent within a few years even when the trend was previously rising sharply. Neighbouring Dubai is a compelling case in point where a targeted speed reduction campaign involving a new traffic offences, tougher penalties and increased police visibility resulted in a 54% reduction in road crash deaths between 2008 and 2010 whereas the previous decade has witnessed a 60% increase. The starting point for any successful road safety strategy is a national road safety plan. A national road safety policy identifies the root causes of road crashes, sets targets for death and injury reduction, allocates budget and defines roles and responsibilities of all sectors.

Successful road safety plans consider the vehicle, the road and the user as one system and focus on the interactions between them. This system’s approach is the driving force behind Sweden’s bold road safety policy, Vision Zero. Vision Zero is based on the realisation that vehicles, the road and users interact and are interdependent and alters the view on responsibility. Those who design the road transport system bear the ultimate responsibility for safety; road managers, vehicle manufacturers, fleet managers, politicians, public employees, legislative authorities and the police. The responsibility of the individual is to abide by laws and regulations. Before this, almost all responsibility had been placed on the individual road user.

The Vision Zero safe systems model is suitable for many countries and several have already followed the Swedish example or are in the process of implementing similar goal zero policies. Few would argue that concerted action is critical to tackle Oman’s worsening road safety situation. It is sufficient to consult doctors and surgeons in major hospitals, road traffic police and paramedics who deal daily with the horrific aftermath of road crashes. Rapid action can, and should, be taken now to tackle the major risk factors in a two-phase approach:-

Immediate measures

  • Speed management through speed cameras, basic road infrastructure improvements, rumble strips, signs, traffic calming measures
  • Zero tolerance mobile phone driving ban
  • Strengthening road traffic violations enforcement capacity
  • Consistent, zero-tolerance enforcement of existing laws and introduction of stiffer penalties for violations
  • Fast-track programme for comprehensive re-training and education of driving instructors.
  • Large-scale information campaigns on the major risk factors
  • Priority programme of road safety education for decision makers in all stakeholder institutions.

Longer-term measures

  • Establishment of a national road safety agency safety responsible for preparing and implementation of a coordinated national road safety plan of action based on Vision Zero with measurable goals and targets.
  • Reform of the road traffic law, introduction of black point system and codification of all offences
  • Introduction of a universal seatbelt and child safety seat law
  • Stringent training and regulation of drivers of school buses and all passenger transport vehicles
  • Stringent training and regulation of all heavy vehicles drivers
  • Raising standards of driver training and testing
  • Capacity building in stakeholder institutions and enforcement agencies.
  • Introducing safety features in all existing and planned road systems
  • Establishing an integrated system for data collection and analysis on road crash death and injury, causes and black spots
  • Improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Setting the highest international standards and specifications for vehicle imports
  • Developing a public transport system
  • Formulating a long-term sustainable town planning and roads and transport policies