By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent
The scene is like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster, however it occurred too close to home this past week in Kuwait. A silver sports car weaves sharply into another lane to avert crashing into a speeding luxury car racing down the highway. The driver of the silver car, however, does not manage to walk away from the scene and there is no director to yell, â€œCutâ€. Instead his car hits the edge of the curb, which sends it spinning into the air and crashing upside down into a date palm tree. The 17-old-driver dies at the scene and his three passengers are all recuperating in the hospital. The reckless driver that instigated the accident has yet to be found as he left the scene of the crime.
Vehicular manslaughter is one of the leading causes of death in the Middle East with Kuwait having one of the worst records for road safety in the region. Motorists routinely ignore the speed limit and disobey traffic laws even though there are traffic enforcement cameras littered all over the country. Despite the hefty fines and threat of imprisonment motorists continue to disobey even basic traffic laws, such as turning the blinker on when making a turn. As a result, cars and pedestrians are put into harmâ€™s way every time they hit the road. Every other week it seems a pedestrian is run over by a speeding motorist or a multiple car pile up occurs due to negligent driving.
The problem lies in the lack of police presence on Kuwaiti roads. There are no traffic stops to enforce road safety, such as wearing a seatbelt for security. And there is not even a notion of a unified highway patrol, where cops could lurk in the desert shrubs with radar guns in their hands, to catch speeding motorists as they push the pedal to the metal. The fact that most drivers in Kuwait do not fear getting caught for reckless driving is also another issue. â€œIf Iâ€™m running late for work I have no choice but to speed,â€ laments citizen Souad Al-Shammari, â€œI would rather risk a fine than a verbal lashing from my boss.â€
Kuwait is not the only country in the region with a poor road safety record. Saudi Arabia Bahrain and Dubai have all grappled with improving their records for the sake of both motorists and pedestrians. This past spring, Saudi Arabia in particular launched a sweeping campaign to educate the public on road safety and to punish repeat offenders with hefty fines.