12/13/2013Saudi Arabia: Speed Cameras Fail To Reduce Accidents
Trauma medicine researcher in Saudi Arabia concludes the single-minded police obsession with speed makes roads more dangerous.
Researchers have concluded red light cameras and speed cameras failed to reduce deadly accidents in Saudi Arabia. A paper presented last week at the 2013 International Trauma Conference at the King Abdullah International Medical Research Center in Riyadh concluded the devices known as "saher" cannot be responsible for the claimed reductions in fatalities.
Dr Saud Al Turki, a vascular surgeon and director of trauma courses at the King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, argued the automated ticketing programs focused on speeding and running red lights, but these only account for 31 percent of fatalities. By focusing so much effort on these driving behaviors, officials ignore 69 percent of accidents caused by failure to pay attention to the other rules of the road.
"This has encouraged drivers to continue breaking traffic rules which in turn has contributed to the increasing number of accidents and deaths," Al Turki said, as reported in Al Watan.
Saudi Arabia has some of the world's most dangerous roads. Al Turki questioned official statistics provided by the General Department of Traffic that claim 20 road deaths per day. His estimate is 41 deaths per day from 544,000 total accidents.
"Death statistics cited by the traffic department only count people who die at accident scenes," Al Turki explained. "It does not take into account deaths inside hospital operating rooms or intensive care units."
Compared to the United States, which has 10 annual traffic deaths per 100,000 population, the official rate in Saudi Arabia is 86.3. In 2008, Saudi Arabia had the second most dangerous roads in the world. At the same time, saher does a brisk business, as Saudi Arabia issues 9 million citations per year. The system is meant to be convenient, allowing drivers to sign up -- for a 2.5 riyal fee (US 70 cents) -- to receive tickets through a text message on their cell phones. The Interior Ministry requires all residents to keep their mobile phone number and address up-to-date as they are held liable for the "non-arrival of their traffic violation" which results in a doubling of the ticket to the highest rate.