A survey carried out by Gulf Times has shown that 41% feel that Qatar is the worst country to drive in. Second with 23% was Egypt, and third Saudi Arabia.
The respondents, who had to have driven in three or more countries to be counted, cited speed and lack of respect of traffic signals as the main reasons for their choice of Qatar.
“I am too scared to drive here,” said Simona Andrias, a Romanian who since moving to Qatar three years ago depends on her husband to take her everywhere.
“Speed limits do not apply here,” said Taylor Streetor, an American.
“People are not disciplined here, because if you have the right connections, you can get out of paying the fine,” said Pinkie Salvador, a Filipino.
Officer Abdel Rahman al-Malki, of the Awareness Sector in the Traffic Department, thinks it’s an exaggeration to say Qatar is the worst country in the world to drive in, but agrees that the country has a serious speeding problem.
“The number of deaths in 2008 increased from that in 2007,” he said. “We’ve implemented new laws and fines, but we’ll have to wait and see their effect on 2009 statistics.”
In Qatar, the number of road accidents last year was 20,455, with approximately 200 deaths, according to the Traffic Department.
The accidents prompted the Qatari government to put in place a new points system whereby a person caught speeding or breaking a traffic light would pay a heavy fine of QR6,000 and receive a point. After 14 points, the driver is put in prison.
Those who said Egypt is the worst place to drive in had plenty of reasons. “I’ve driven everywhere in the world, but Egypt is impossible,” said Abdel Rahman al-Harsi, a Qatari. “I once crashed into a horse carriage in Egypt, and since then have sworn not to drive in Egypt.”
“It takes cleverness to drive there, especially in roundabouts where you’re supposed to be driving in one direction, but people go in all directions,” said Ahmed Mohamed, another Qatari who has driven in Cairo.
Hanan Hassan, an Egyptian, agreed but said it was unfair to compare Egypt to Qatar. “It is way more crowded in Egypt; there is no room to drive properly. Besides, the streets are not well planned,” she added.
Citizens from Egypt’s neighbouring countries have also suffered from Egyptians’ driving. “My brother drives on the Egyptian-Libyan border, and he’s lucky to be still alive,” said Munsif Ali, a Tunisian. “Neither Egyptians nor Libyans can drive,” he added.
According to the World Health Organisation, the highest rate of road deaths in the world is found in Africa and other developing countries, such as India and Pakistan, where traffic accidents kill more than HIV/Aids, malaria and heart disease put together.
Drivers from the areas agree with the statistics.
“We have to drive through narrow streets, with no traffic lights, and in rainy seasons through landslides,” said Rupchan Tamang, from Nepal. “Obviously it’s more dangerous there.”
“In India there all the roads are narrow and run both ways, so people crash into each other,” said Abdel Aziz Bukat, a driver who worked for some years in Kerala.
Other countries the respondents mentioned included North Korea, Syria, Italy and Kuwait.
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