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Traffic Safety Institute Systematic knowledge to enhance road safety

Author: Lt. Hamed bin Hashel Al-Qareeni

Road accidents in oman, at an alarming rate, have become a matter of serious concern to families and to the community at large. A joint solution envisioned by all sectors and even individuals is needed for this problem.

In Oman, Royal Oman Police, represented by the Directorate General of Traffic, in charge of road traffic, has urged the whole community, particularly the institutions concerned to contribute to enhancing road safety, in an effort to reduce the rate of accidents, deaths and injuries. To support the national road safety efforts, Petroleum Development of Oman (PDO), which traditionally has made gifts to the Omani people in the form of projects having a national benefit, made its presence of this year the “Traffic Safety Institute” at Seeb.

To become familiar about this institute I interviewed three senior personalities involved in this matter: Brigadier Majed bin Musa Al-Hilali, Director General of Traffic, Mr. John Malcolm, General Manager, Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), and Major Abdullah bin Jum’a Al Ghailani, Director of the Traffic Safety Institute.

Brigadier Majed bin Musa Al-Hilali, Director General of Traffic. said that the Directorate of Traffic is one of ROP Directorates which provide direct services to the public in Oman. Among other duties it organizes road traffic, applies traffic rules, regulations and laws, carries out safety awareness campaigns, and activates speed monitoring devices (radars).

The idea of establishing a road safety institute was based on His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s directives for collective effort of the government, private sector, and individuals to enhance the Omani society and develop its capabilities and knowledge in order to achieve social safety. However, the Directorate General of Traffic cannot work on its own and without participation of all sectors and authorities to deal with the road safety issues.

The need for a traffic safety institute had been dictated by the traffic statistics. The idea had already been in conception, and was discussed in seminars and meetings. PDO took the initiative, adopted the idea, and achieved it with the cooperation of the Royal Oman Police. “I would like to express much thanks and gratitude to PDO for the great initiative of financing the construction and equipping of the institute. This is a very good example of cooperation to do something for that common good,” the Director General of Traffic said.

He added that the institute will have a board that will formulate the general policy of the institute, and discuss whether there is a need to establish branches in the governorates and regions.

Mr. John Malcolm, General Manager of PDO said: “We all realize the risks of driving, and that many people have been victims of negligence of drivers. Accidents are almost due to poor driving, unawareness of the basics of driving or to the circumstances of the road and how to act accordingly. For these reasons the PDO coordinated with ROP to tackle the problem, and they worked together to establish the institute. He said that the institute would not have become a reality without support from the government committee of social investment.

Mr. Malcolm elaborated that some years back the road accidents were the main cause of deaths and injuries at PDO. “But today, I am glad to say, the situation is different. Ten years back in PDO, the rate of vehicle accidents were 1.48 per 1 million km. Today it is less than one. The company’s initiatives, including the introduction of simulators, defensive driving courses, and the use of vehicle control systems have improved the situation. The company’s initiative is focused on the driver’s mind and heart to prompt him to change his driving attitude. The company is very happy to share its long experience to reinforce the safety of drivers throughout the country, and to contribute to making Oman’s roads safer for all users.

He added: “We are proud that we continuously work together with ROP, and our viewpoints regarding road safety are identical. Our collective efforts have been culminated in the establishment of the Traffic Safety Institute. While ROP are committed to maintain safety on the roads, we in PDO are committed to ensure that our employees and other relevant personnel go home safely after office hours.

Of course the ROP has long experience in driving and in handling the tragic accidents in Oman. The motive for the institute goes beyond the need to change the standard of driving than just watching the sufferings, pains and sadness caused by road accidents.

The institute is just another example of interagency cooperation for the social and health benefit of the Nation. To ensure such ongoing cooperation a senior PDO staff-member, the Manager of Health, Safety, Environment and Sustainable Development, has been appointed as a member of the board of the Institute.

The PDO General Manger concluded, “ I express much thanks to His Excellency, Lt. Gen. Malik bin Sulaiman Al Ma’mary, Inspector General of Police and Customs and his staff for their commendable support for the establishment of the institute, through which, I am sure much will be achieved.

“Where the institute achieves the goal of reducing the number of victims on the roads, it will be among the great gifts awarded to the Omani people on the National Day occasions.

The Director of the Road Safety Institute, Major Abdullah bin Jum’a Al Ghailani said that the institute is a specialized institute for training traffic officers, road users, driving instructors and examiners. Special programmes, courses and workshops will be held for these categories respectively. The traffic officers will attend courses in the investigation of accidents, the technical and administrative aspects of such investigations, advanced courses in defensive driving and other courses to enhance their performance. Examiners will be trained in the testing the driving licence applicants, and in vehicle inspection techniques. Courses for road users will cover defensive driving and road traffic rules. Those who repeatedly commit offences and accidents will undergo special qualification courses. Special courses on defensive driving, traffic rules, first aid, general information on tourist and important locations will also be held for utility and public transport drivers. Driving instructors undergo training to improve their driving teaching skills.

Major Ghailani indicated that the institute will be in contact with other institutes specialized in this field and coordinate with them to gain experience. The institute will hold seminars, workshops, conferences, and prepare studies and researches in relation to road safety.

A number of experienced ROP officers have already been selected as the nucleus of the training staff. For training these staff, an agreement has been made with Sweden, which is rated as having a high standard of road safety. A Swedish team is now developing a syllabus in coordination with the Directorate General of Traffic, ROE The instructors will qualify in phases until the end of September 2006, when the Swedish team will supervise and evaluate their performance in actual training courses until the end of the year. Within the contract, the Swedish team will also develop syllabi for all training programmes.

It is expected that the institute will contribute to reducing the rate of accidents as driving instructors, utility drivers (bus, taxi, truck and heavy vehicle drivers) and recurrent offenders will undergo systematic theoretical and practical training to polish their experience. “Our long- term goal is to make people conscious of road safety,” he said.

The institute consists of 4 classes, each accommodating 24 trainees and equipped with computers, video, DVD, and a multi-purpose screen. A conference room with a capacity of about 250 persons is equipped with presentation technology, cameras and a control room. A public safety room includes a ‘tipper’, mobile chair, and mechanical equipment for practical training. A computer room contains 30 PCs, projectors, and a server. A first aid room contains a number of dummies’ and first aid equipment for practicing while a library contains books on traffic and computers connected with the Internet. To complete the full array of ‘state of the art’ facilities, a VIP guest room, and a training ground with a number of vehicles and trucks for practical training and a number of vehicles and trucks.