Traffic accidents in Saudi Arabia : a study of their causes and association with driver behaviour, with specific reference to the eastern region
A high incidence of road accidents has been recorded in Saudi Arabia in recent years (Traffic Department Statistics 1991). Various factors might have accounted for this high rate of road accidents; the aim of this research, therefore, was to examine what factors contribute to road accidents in the country. In pursuit of this aim, a review of relevant literature on factors related with road accidents in many countries of the world was undertaken. Through this review, a list of road, vehicle and driver-related variables was selected for investigation in this study. The target population for the study was 4,100 drivers in Eastern Saudi Arabia who had been involved in road accidents in the period. Out of this population, a sample of 600 drivers was selected. The instrument used to collect data for the study was a questionnaire which requested demographic information on factors which had caused them to have an accident, and questions analysing habitual driving behaviour. Drivers were also tested on their knowledge of road signs. Returns were received from 484 drivers, 81% of the study sample. Two statistical techniques, chi square and correlation coefficient Spearman Brown formula, were utilised to test the relationship between the independent variables and the dependent variable - the number of road accidents. The findings of the study show that certain variables were significantly associated with road accidents in Saudi Arabia. Among the significant variables were the age of the driver, education level, profession, violation record, vehicle ownership, joy-riding, poor eye sight, sun haze, sand storm, long hours driving, non-observance of speed limit, emerging and exiting from roads without signals, presence of stray animals, non-marking of the road, non-familiarity with the road, lack of regular checking of vehicles, lack of regular servicing of vehicles and driving under medication. The variables that were not significant include marital status, non-possession of a licence, mechanical fault, reversing, non-alertness to others' errors, use of high beam lights while driving, non-lighting of the roads, passengers' behaviour, ear disorder. Conclusions were drawn as to deficiencies in driver training in Saudi Arabia and inadequacies of supervision by the law enforcement agents. It is recommended that policy makers should make intensive efforts in organising training programmes and seminars for drivers and curriculum of driving schools should be expanded. Measures for improving enforcement of traffic regulations are made, and it is suggested that an Islamic insurance policy for vehicles should be introduced in the country. Finally, suggestions are made for further research.