Assessment of Traffic Safety and Awareness among Youth in Al-Ahsa Region, Saudi Arabia

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1 Journal of Emerging Trends in Engineering and Applied Sciences (JETEAS) 2 (2): Scholarlink Research Institute Journals, 2011 (ISSN: ) jeteas.scholarlinkresearch.org Journal of Emerging Trends in Engineering and Applied Sciences (JETEAS) 2 (2): (ISSN: ) Assessment of Traffic Safety and Awareness among Youth in Al-Ahsa Region, Saudi Arabia Emhaidy S. Gharaibeh and Ahmad M. Abu Abdo Department of Civil Engineering, King Faisal University, P.O. Box 380, Al-Ahsa, 31982, Saudi Arabia Corresponding Author: Ahmad M. Abu Abdo Abstract Due to the importance role of traffic regulations knowledge and awareness in the reduction of traffic accidents, especially among the youth, this study was initiated to assess the traffic regulations knowledge and awareness of university and high school students in Al-Ahsa region, Saudi Arabia. To meet the objective of this study, a survey was designed and distributed to students at King Faisal University and selected high schools in the region. The total number of participants was 1007 with the majority of participants between 15 to 19 years old. Data had shown that a low percentage complied with traffic regulations and the use of seatbelts. A relatively high number of participants lacked the knowledge of important traffic signs, especially signs designated for yielding to traffic and pedestrians, which could be one of the major reasons for the high rate of accidents in the region in combination to excessive speeding. Furthermore, participants agreed that TV programs would be the best method for promoting traffic awareness. In spite of the high usage of the internet by youth, the internet was considered the least effective method. In conclusion, this study showed that youth in Al-Ahsa region had the knowledge of wrong driving practices, but they lacked it in traffic regulations and signs. Therefore, it is recommends that the traffic regulations and safety awareness start at an early stage and age, through TV programs and school activities. In addition, knowledge of traffic signs should be emphasized with the increase of the enforcement of traffic regulations. Keywords: traffic awareness, traffic safety, traffic survey, traffic accidents, youth, al-ahsa, saudi arabia I TRODUCTIO Traffic Accidents continue to inflect severe health and economic repercussions worldwide. Despite major efforts to improve traffic safety, traffic accidents have increased steadily through the last three decades [Koushki et al. (1999) and Traffic General Directorate (2003)]. Statistics for the year 2009 showed that traffic accident fatalities were 1.2 million worldwide and 6458 deaths in Saudi Arabia alone. As for injuries, there were 50 million worldwide and in Saudi Arabia. Further, it was found that around 18 deaths and 100 injuries occur daily in Saudi Arabia. It was estimated that the annual cost of traffic accidents in Saudi Arabia exceeds 6 billion US dollars [Al-Saif (2010)], in addition to other social, health, and economical impacts, such as disability, rehab, and unemployment due to traffic accident injuries. It has been reported [Teasdale (1995) and Ministry of Health (1995a and 1995b)] that 81% of deaths in the Ministry of Health Hospital were as a result of traffic accidents and one fifth of hospital beds were occupied by traffic accident casualties. Unfortunately, these numbers might be higher, earlier study by Koushki and Balghunaim (1991) found that approximately of accidents in Saudi Arabia were not reported due to multiple reasons. Even 210 though, Saudi traffic laws and regulations state that it is compulsory to report any type of traffic accident. Several Studies [Tamimi et al. (1981), Nafee and Al- Saif (1986), Jadan et al. (1992), Al-Ghamdi (2003), Bendak (2005), Koushki and Bustan (2006), and Chung and Wong (2010)] indicated that the majority of traffic accidents could be contributed to drivers and road users characteristics. Nafee and Al-Saif (1986) observed that drivers were directly responsible for about 85% of the total accidents in Saudi Arabia, where Tamimi et al. (1981) concluded that drivers between 18 to 40 years of age were involved in approximately 65% of traffic accidents in Asir region, Saudi Arabia, with more than 9 of young adult in the gulf region owned vehicles [Koushki and Bustan (2006)]. Furthermore, Ansari et al. (2000) stressed that causes of traffic accidents in Saudi Arabia fell in two categories: general and specific causes. General causes included a large increase in vehicles, expansion of road networks, large national development projects, and increase number of foreign workers. On the other hand, specific causes included driver errors, excess speed, violation of traffic signals, and road and vehicle safety conditions. Badawi et al. (1995) argued that in addition to the previous causes, age of the drivers, the use of seatbelts, and the education level of drivers were important as well.

2 Most studies stressed on the necessity of public awareness and education campaigns, and strict law enforcement strategies [Badawi et al. (1995), Al- Zahrani et al. (1994), Al-Gamdi (2003), Bendak (2005)]. Al-Zahrani et al. (1994) argued that traffic accidents number and severity could be reduced by utilizing the 3E s solutions; Engineering, Education, and Enforcement. OBJECTIVE Due to the importance of traffic regulations knowledge and awareness in reduction of traffic accidents, especially among the youth, this study was initiated to investigate and evaluate the traffic regulations knowledge and awareness of university and high school students in Al-Ahsa region, Saudi Arabia. METHODOLOGY To meet the objective of this study a survey was designed and distributed among students at King Faisal University and selected high schools in Al- Ahsa, Saudi Arabia. The survey was designed in three sections, the first section included questions on the participant information (e.g. age, education level etc), the second section evaluated the driving behavior and practices, and finally the third section assessed participants traffic regulations knowledge and awareness. DATA A ALYSIS A D DISCUSSIO More than two thousand questionnaires were distributed among selected university and high schools students. The return rate was around. The total number of participants was 1007 and the average age was 21.5 years. Even though, this survey was directed to the youth, few graduate students, instructors, and parents had contributed to this study, as well. As shown in Table 1, the majority of participants were in the age groups of 15 to 19 and 20 to 29 years, with 70.4% and 18.9% of the total number of participants, respectively. Figure 1 illustrates the level of education of participants, with 48.41% high school students and 50.97% university students. Table 1: Age Groups for Age Group < % % % % % > % 0.21% 48.41% 50.97% Less than High School High School Students University Students Figure 1: Levels of Education Data indicated that the majority of participants (82%) owned a vehicle, and 37% of vehicle owners had full coverage vehicle insurance, 45% had third-party insurance, and high percentage of 18% did not have any type of coverage (Figure 2-a). Furthermore, as shown in Figure 2-b, of participants, did periodic vehicle maintenance, occasionally, and small percentage of 9% rarely did not have any type of vehicle maintenance, which showed high level of awareness of measures of vehicle safety by participants. None 18% Third Party Coverage 45% Full Coverage 37% Full Coverage Third Party Coverage None 41% 9% 0.41% Graduates a) Type of Vehicle Insurance b) Vehicle Periodic Maintenance Figure 2: ' Vehicle Safety Figure 3 indicates a high percentage of participants (7) were involved in accidents as drivers, with 55% were involved in one to two accidents and 15% have taken part in at least three accidents. Also, Figure 4 demonstrates a staggering percentage of 78.9% of participants were involved in their first accidents at the age of 15 to 19 years old, while 0.6% had their first accident when they were younger than 10 years old. 211

3 high rate of traffic accidents and fatalities in the region > Three 15% None One or Two 55% 26% 21% 2% 16% 53% 82% None One or Two > Three Figure 3: Involvement in Vehicle Accidents % a) Compliance with Speed Limits b) Compliance with Traffic Signals 7 0.6% 4.6% 10.3% % 1.1% 0.3% < >40 Age Figure 4: Age Group at First Accident as a Driver 45% 13% 42% c) Use of Seatbelts 44% 9% 47% d) Continuation of Driving While Feeling Fatigued Furthermore, Figure 5 summarizes some of the important participants driving practice and behavior. A very low percentage of 26% of participants fully complied with speed limits, 82% fully complied with traffic signals, only 12% always used seatbelts, just 13% stopped driving when feeling tired or fatigued, and high percentage of 85% used mobile phone during driving, while only 7% of these participants always used free hands mobile phone devices. Astonishingly, when participants knowledge of traffic signs was tested, a relatively high number did not know the correct answers, even though these percentages seemed low, when translated to actual numbers, the number of participants, who did not know major and important traffic signs, was staggering. As shown in Figure 6, 10 to 15% did not know what Stop, Merging into a Main Street, Do not Pass, and School Crossing Zone Signs meant, while did not know Do not Enter Sign. In addition, a high percentage of 46% of participants did not have a clue what a Yield Sign means. Combing this information with the low percentage of complying with the speed limits could be the main cause of the 41% 15% 44% e) Use of Mobile Phones During Driving Figure 5: Driving Practices 16% 6% 78% f) Use of Mobile Phones Free Hand Devices 212

4 Correct Answers % 94% 85% 62% Picture 1 Picture 2 Picture 3 Picture 4 Picture 5 Picture 6 Picture 7 Picture 8 Picture 9 Picture 10 Traffic Signs Figure 6: ' Traffic Signs Knowledge Data from the awareness section of the survey showed that a high percentage of participants were knowledgeable of wrong driving practices. When asked to rank the main causes of accidents, excessive speed came first, then lack of attention, incompliance with traffic regulations, stunts, and finally lack of experience (Figure 7). Even though, the majority of participants were within the age group of 15 to 19 years old (Table 1), their answers showed that 48% indicated that they were the most age group responsible for accidents, as shown in Figure % 86% 8 93% 54% 26% 48% 11% < > 50 Age Figure 8: Age Group Responsible for Most Accidents severity and 44% noted that it had an intermediate effect, Similar to seatbelts use, participants expressed that using mobile phones while driving had an effect on the number of accidents, only 9% thought that it had no effect (Figure 9-b), which coincided with ranking lack of attention as the second main cause for accidents as indicated in Figure 7. Intermediate 44% Minor 6% Major 1% Intermediate 45% 3% Minor 9% 11% Major 46% 8 7 Importance Excessive Speed Lack of Attention Incompliance with Traffic Regulations Stunts Figure 7: Main Five Causes for Accidents Inexperience Even though, a very low percentage of participants (13%) always used seatbelts (Figure 5-c), the majority of participants recognized that using seatbelts had a high impact on accidents severity, as illustrated in Figure 9, of participants thought that it played a major role in reducing accident Major Intermediate Minor a) Effects of Using Seatbelts on Accidents Seriousness Major Intermediate Minor b) Effects of Mobile Phone Usage on Number of Accidents Figure 9: Effects of Using Seatbelts and Mobile Phones on Accidents Finally, when the best awareness methods of traffic knowledge were assessed, Figure 10 demonstrates the importance of several methods of traffic knowledge according to participants. The majority of participants (41%) agreed that TV programs would be the best method for promoting traffic awareness, followed by school activities (), lectures and workshops (14%), flyers (), radio programs (8%), and finally via the internet (7%). In spite of the high usage of the internet by youth in the kingdom, 213

5 participants agreed that using the internet for promoting traffic regulations and safety awareness was the least effective method. This might be contributed to the nature of the internet use in the region, where it is mainly used for entertainment and communication purposes, not as an educational channel. Internet 7% Radio Programs 8% Awareness Flyers Lectures and Workshops 14% TV Programs Lectures and Workshops Radio Programs School Activities TV Programs 41% School Activities Awareness Flyers Internet Figure 10: Effective Methods for Increasing Traffic Awareness SUMMARY A D CO CLUSIO S Due to the importance role of traffic regulations knowledge and awareness in reducing traffic accidents, especially among the youth, this study was initiated to assess the traffic regulations knowledge and awareness of university and high school students in Al-Ahsa region, Saudi Arabia. To meet the objective of this study a survey was designed and distributed among students at King Faisal University and selected high schools in the region. The survey was designed to have three main sections; participant information, driving practices, and finally traffic regulations knowledge and awareness assessment. The total number of participants was 1007 and the average age was 21.5 years. The majority of participants were between 15 to 19 years old. Data had shown that a very low percentage of 26% of participants fully complied with speed limits, 82% fully complied with traffic signals, and only 12% always used seatbelts, and a high percentage of 85% used mobile phone during driving. Surprisingly, a relatively high number of participants lacked the knowledge of important traffic signs, especially signs designated for yielding to traffic and pedestrians, which could be one of the major reasons for high rate of accidents in the region. Data from the awareness section of the survey showed that a high percentage of participants were knowledgeable of wrong driving practices, excessive speed was ranked as the first cause, then lack of attention, incompliance with traffic regulations, stunts, and finally lack of experience. Although the majority of participants where within the age group of 15 to 19 years old, the survey showed that it was the most age group responsible for accidents. Finally, participants agreed that TV programs were the best method for promoting traffic awareness, in spite of the high usage of the internet by youth in the kingdom, the internet was considered as the least effective method. In conclusion, this study showed that the participants had the knowledge of wrong driving practices, but lacked it in traffic regulations and signs. Therefore, it is recommended that traffic regulations and safety awareness start at an early stage and age, through TV programs and school activities. In addition, more emphasis on the knowledge of traffic signs is needed in the driving license exam and to step up enforcement of traffic regulations by the authorities. ACK OWLEDGME T The research team would like to extend their gratitude to the Deanship of Scientific Research at King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia for funding this study and to the Ministry of Education for Boys in Al-Ahsa and participation schools for the facilitation of the survey distribution to students. Further, the research team would like to acknowledge Mr. Abdulmohsan T. Bosanah, an engineering student at King Faisal University, for his assistance in distributing and collecting surveys. The support of these administrations and personals is greatly appreciated. REFERE CES Al-Saif, A. J. (2010). Prediction of Traffic Accidents in GCC, Solutions, and the Role of Al-Shura Council in Addressing That, Saudi Arabia as a Model. King Fahd National Library, First Edition, Saudi Arabia. Al-Ghamdi, A. S. (2003). Analysis of Traffic Accidents at Urban Intersections in Riyadh. Accident Analysis and Prevention, Vol. 35, pp Al-Zahrani, A. H., M. M. O. Jamjoom, and H. O. Al- Bar (1994). Traffic Accident Characteristics in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Journal of King Abdulaziz University Engineering Sciences, Vol. 6, pp Ansari, S., F. Akhdar, M. Mandoorah and K. Moutaery, Causes and Effects of Road Traffic Accidents in Saudi Arabia. Public Health, Vol. 114, pp Badawi, I. A., W. Alakija, M. A. Aziz, Road Traffic Accidents in Asir Region, Saudi Arabia: Pattern and prevention. Saudi Medical Journal, Vol. 16 (3), pp

6 Bendak S. (2005). Seat belt utilization in Saudi Arabia and its Impact on Road Accident Injuries. Accident Analysis and Prevention, Vol. 37, pp Chung, Y. S. and Wong J. T. (2010). Investigating Driving Styles and Their Connections to Speeding and Accident Experience. Journal of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies, Vol. 8. Jadaan K. S., A. Bener, A. Al-Zahrani (1992). Some Aspects of Road User Behaviour in Selected Gulf Countries. Journal of Traffic Med, Vol. 20, pp Koushki, P. A. and F. A. Balghunaim (1991). Determination and Analysis of Unreported Road Accidents, Saudi Arabia. Journal of King Saud University Engineering Sciences, Vol. 3 (1), pp Koushki, P. A., S. Y. Ali, and O. I. Al-Saleh (1999). Driving and Using Mobile Phones: Impacts on Road Accidents. Journal of the Transportation Research Board, Vol. 1694, pp Koushki, P. A. and M. Bustan, Smoking, Belt Use, and Road Accidents of Youth in Kuwait. Safety Science, Vol. 44, pp Ministry of Health (1995a). Annual Health Report, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Ministry of Health (1995b). Deaths reports for 1995, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Nafee, A. and K. AI-Saif, K. (1986). A Summary of Drivers Characteristics in Saudi Arabia. Highway Safety Symposium, King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia. Tamimi, T. M., M. Daly, M. Bhatty, and A. Lutt (1980). Causes and Types of Road Injuries in Asir Province, Saudi Arabia, : Preliminary Study. Saudi Medical Journal, Vol. 1(5), pp Traffic General Directorate (2003). Annual Traffic Report. Ministry of the Interior, Saudi Arabia. Teasdale, G. M. (1995). Head Injury. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 1995, Vol. 58, pp

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