Eyes On The Road – Road Safety Solution for Qatar


eyes-on-the-road

By: Ameena Al-Emadi, Fatima Qafoud and Zakiya Al-Boloshi

The Most Precious Asset in Qatar is Dissolving!

Human beings are the most valuable assets of any civilization. Buildings and tangible assets are worthless without having healthy people to live in. In Qatar, this precious asset is at the verge of dissolving through road carnage. Statistics indicate that road traffic injuries in Qatar cause one out of eight deaths (12.5%) (MayssaNehlawi, 2013). According to Dr. Rafael Consunji, the Injury prevention Director at Trauma Surgery of Hamad General Hospital, the number of deaths related to road accidents is more than that caused by cancer or cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, every year, 80 pedestrians die and more than 200 suffer from severe injuries.

Trauma is the leading cause of death among young adults in the Gulf region (MayssaNehlawi, 2013). Prevention of trauma is a key to preventing occurrence of people falling victim to serious injury. The effect of road injuries has direct effect on the country’s GDP. This could be in excess of QR 10 billion annually based on the formula used by Prof. Abdulbari Bener, a senior consultant and head of the department of epidemiology and medical statistics at Hamad Medical Corporation which showed that young drivers falling in the age between 25-34 years had the highest prevalence of road traffic injuries.

In early 2013, Qatar launched a National Traffic Strategy 2013-2022. The strategy shows government clear efforts to enhance traffic management including all aspects of road design, education, technology, research, enforcement and medical treatment. Mr. Jhon Kipling, the road safety consultant in RasGas warns against creating large initiatives that might not solve the root causes of the problem. This is because cars are driven by people and their behavior ultimately results in accidents. It therefore means that investing a lot of financial resources in solving the problem is not a better solution to eradicating the menace (MayssaNehlawi, 2013).

According to the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies-ictQATAR, ICT Landscape report 2013, about 69.3% of the households owning Smartphone with 56% and 51% of them are male and female respectively. About 8% and 11% of male and female own tablets respectively. Moreover, the report indicates that the number of people owning Smartphone and tablets between Qataris and expatriates stands at 66% to 52% and 20% to 7% respectively (IctQATAR, 2013).

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Figure (1) Penetration of Smartphones and Tablets among mainstream individuals by gender; Source: ICT Landscape report 2013


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Figure (2) Penetration of Smartphones and tablets among mainstream individuals (Qataris and Expatriates)

One of the root causes of car accidents is using mobile phones while driving (MOI, 2012). It’s found that dialing while driving increases the risk of car crash by 2.8-4 and text messaging by 23 times respectively. More so, the risk of mobile usage while driving is equivalent to the risk of driving a car being drunk. Traffic Department in Qatar took the following actions to sensitize the population on the need to minimize mobile usage while driving:

  • They issued restricted laws and regulations against car drivers who use mobile phones while driving in which the officers registered a penalty of QAR500 to culprits.
  • They used very modest awareness campaigns, which were illustrated as small signs that are barely visible or which attract the drivers. This move was sponsored by companies like Al-Meera and Qatar National Development Bank (QDB).
  • They also issued awareness campaign during GCC traffic safety week using the slogan “Don’t call until you reach your destination” (MOI, 2012).

The Traffic Department of Ministry of Interior established “The National Traffic Safety Committee”. They initiated a program called “One Second” with an objective to unify all road safety initiatives in the country. They issued a campaign called “students for road safety” using a slogan “One second can change your life” the campaign was launched in association with Supreme Council of Health and MAERSK Oil aiming to develop awareness of road safety among students aged 12 to 18 years by engaging them in workshops and use of phone simulator The campaign attracted tens of thousands of kids at schools (The One Second Programme, http://OneSecond.qa).

The initiative has a website which can be accessed through the following URL http://onesecond.qa. By use of the website, they identified main road dangers and proposed solutions. One of the main causes of road carnage was the danger of using mobile phones while driving. The following table illustrates the identified danger related to using mobile phone and proposed solutions (The One Second Programme, http://OneSecond.qa):

The Dangers The Solution
  • When you’re behind the wheel, using a mobile phone in ANY situation, even when stuck at traffic lights, means that your attention is not on the road. One moment’s distraction is all it takes to get into a major accident.
  • You are four times more likely to crash if you use a mobile phone while driving.
  • When you are on the phone, your reaction times are 50% slower than when you are driving normally.
  • Please don’t make or answer calls while you’re driving.
  • Please find a safe place to park before using your mobile phone.
  • Do not pull off on the hard shoulder of the highway.
  • Don’t call people when you know that they are driving.

Further to above, It is evident that society awareness about road safety is on the increase through several youth initiatives supported by social media such as Facebook, Instegram, YouTube, Twitter, Wransade and Ahmeek. However, none of these initiatives proposed a solution to eliminate destruction factors of car accidents. Contrary, their main focus on raising awareness and proposing ideal behavior that is not applicable and not followed by majority of car drivers. Some of the initiatives used in the campaign include; “Ahmeek”, a Vodafone-Qatar student initiative that uses interactive theater as well as use of art and creativity by youth to create awareness, and using of art and creativity to provide solutions and awareness in Qatar. Hazawi Pic did develop short video clips that talked about creation of good relationship between people and seatbelt. Cartoon creators too developed cartoons to this effect (Boudreau et al., 2013).

Singapore Experience in Changing Bad Habit of Mobile Phone While Driving

Singapore is ranked top in Smartphone consumptions globally. Bad mobile phone habits lead to severe pains, especially on roads where drivers text while driving. Despite the dangers associated with such behavior, Singaporean people are ignorant about it. This character among the population led to Samsung invention of a technology that would change people’s road use ethics. The initiative to change such bad habit was the introduction of an application called “Eyes on the Road” (Danny, 2014). This was through the use of sensor fusion technology that detects car motion above 20km/hrs. The technology can also be activated manually by the driver. In this respect, calls and short messages are blocked; generating an auto message back to the caller/sender to inform them of the person’s driving commitment. It also activates alerts to go silent on social media site. The application is then deactivated after 10 minutes of being idle or can be manually deactivated by the driver. This application is installed on all Android Smartphone and is optimized for Galaxy (SIII, S4, NoteII, and Note3).

This application was launched on 5th November 2013, through a campaign called “The Road Comes First” and was endorsed by the Traffic Police and Singapore Road Safety Council. After conducting a survey, they found that 83% of the Singaporean drivers admitted using their mobile phones for texting, map applications and checking mobile phones screens while driving.

To encourage the drivers use this application by 31st January 2014, the first 135 drivers in each month who hit 200km of driving without using their mobile phones and first 50 drivers in each month to reach 1000km, 2000km, 3000km of driving without using their mobile phones could win MSIG premium (Singaporean insurance company) and Shell fuels vouchers. Such drivers could share their scores on Facebook and Twitter accounts to encourage others (Danny, 2014).

According to the Chief Executive Officer of MSIG Paul Faulkner Insurance (Singapore) Pte. Limited, the application was installed to about 500-1000. Captured data showed that each year, one in every six cars insured by the company involved in an accident resulting in a claim. Some of the accidents could be prevented if drivers concentrated more and kept their eyes on the roads. It realized about USD$160,366 earnings to the media institutions in revenue (Danny, 2014).

“Eyes on the Road” is a Complementary to Existing System Not a Replacement  

The proposed application “Eyes on the Road” aim is not to replace the existing systems or efforts; however it is proposed to complement the existing system in place, since awareness is critical factor and penalty system should continue to ensure people disciplinary toward country rules and regulations. The initiative shares the vision of Ministry of Interior and The National Traffic Safety Committee, which is to make Qatari roads safe for both drivers and pedestrians and to minimize car accidents.

The initiative promote for a solution to support drivers to change bad habit of using mobile phones while driving, since it is found that 80% of them are willing to stop such habit in the existence of a rewarding system and a right tool. Moreover, it will increase private companies corporate social responsibility practices in the country.

Challenges Faced “Eyes on the Road” in Singapore

Implementation of these initiatives had both technical and adoption challenges. According to the user’s reviews of the application, it was found that the application had issues in calculating the distance. This was because the application was available in a version that was compatible to Samsung devices only. Furthermore, the initiative realized low number of users embracing use of the technology since the drivers were to install the application by themselves.

“Eyes on the Road” in Qatar

Changing mobile usage habit in Qatar innovatively to effectively deal the road menace was therefore inevitable given the increased level of Smartphone penetration in Qatar. Implementing the existing system followed by Traffic Department of penalizing wrong doers along with awareness campaigns provided by many private organizations in association with Traffic Department proved ineffective. This saw the habit of using mobile phone while driving increase especially with ease of use offered by Smartphone producers (Samsung, Apple, Google, HTC, etc) and promotional offers from mobile service providers (ooredoo and Vodafone-Qatar). Changing any bad habit therefore required adopting a different system other than the penalizing culprits and running promotion campaigns only (Duhigg, 2012).

Charles Duhigg (2012), the author of The Power of Habit, he proposed the following framework to change any bad habit. According to him, Change of bad habit framework identified the following procedures: the first step is to identify the routine of drivers on the road, then carry out an experiment with rewards to lure them from indulging in such habits, if the plan does not succeed the it would be prudent to isolate the cue to come up with an appropriate arrangement of solving the problem. He also suggested in his research that there is a simple neurological loop at the core of every habit (Duhigg, 2012). The loop consists of three parts: A cue, which triggers the urge to embrace the bad habit, a routine that offers a solution to the habit and a reward for the good action taken. Change of such habits involves the emotional and physical change (Duhigg, 2012)

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Figure 3: Habit creation loop, by Charles Duhigg, the author of “The Power of Habit”

Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. However, according to Duhigg c., (2012), with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped. Rewarding is therefore, according to him the best approach to the behavioral change or action. Changing the habit of using mobile while driving should therefore be changed from the current penalty system followed by the Traffic Department to a rewarding system. Identifying best rewarding system that can help in changing bad habit should be identified so as to achieve the ultimate goal of bad habit change (Duhigg, 2012).

Anticipated Challenges for Adopting “Eyes on The Road” in Qatar

However, adopting Eyes on the Road initiative in Qatar is bound to face a number of socio economical and political hardships given the vast differences between the two countries Samsung launches “Eyes on the road” application, by Danny D., January 2014,. Initiating a new establishment in the mobile phone industry was a capital-intensive investment (Danny, 2014). . Given that reduction in car accidents on the road is not the core business of companies operating in the telecommunication industry, it is uneconomical for either of the leading players in the market (Ooredoo and Vodafone) to incur the Initial Investment ownership costs. Moreover, people from the two countries exhibit different lifestyles, religious and tradition beliefs. Therefore, installation of such applications that could block incoming calls and short messages wile one is driving posed a major source of social strife. According to such backgrounds in Qatar, which are totally different from Singapore, the whole idea is bound to be unpopular amongst mobile phone users. Many people could not embrace the idea since it was perceived to cause negative impact in the social economic and political environment.

More so, the rewarding system used in Singapore is not that attractive or rather could not appeal to many consumers of mobile phone services to accommodate. This is the primary hurdle since the product that is identified to act as an incentive had low monetary value in Qatar compared to Singapore. Gasoline price in Qatar is cheaper than in Singapore. The price of one liter (1/4 gallon) of gasoline in Singapore is QAR7 (SGD $2.29) whereas in Qatar, it costs relatively low at QAR1 per liter. This is due to the fact that Qatar is a producer of oil. It was therefore comparative that a more appealing reward other than gasoline would be appropriate to attract more positive responses from the mobile phone users. Use of the intended application could not as well guarantee the mobile phone users of their deserving privacy of their information. Many users may feel that their information deemed to be in private domain could easily leak out to undeserving people hence deploying the users of their private being. It is therefore necessary for the implementing authority to assure the users of the safety of this application before launching.

Given that implementation of the technology would greatly impact on the running of telecommunication sector, it is important to incorporate all the stakeholders in the telecommunication sector, among other related organization the whole process of rolling out the initiative. This is because many of the citizens have both Ooredoo and Vodafone lines; it therefore means that activating service from one telecommunication company only could not achieve the concept behind the whole objective. Such a move could trigger negative competition between these two service providers in the country. Some of the main effects could be in terms of economies of scale due to low customer turn out to consume their services. In such a case, it is logical that customers will tend to shy away from companies not providing such rewards. This can eventually lead to collapse of competitors leading to monopoly in the market against the spirit of fare play and competitive environment. Furthermore, blocking of calls and short messages would reduce calling hours thereby reducing total proceeds.

There are technical challenges encountered in implementing this technology as well. Some of the major technical setbacks are Bugs related to calculating distance. This tends to create lack of confidence by consumers of such services in the application by. This would lead to total misconception from the negative campaign towards the whole idea. Incompatibility of the software to other devices other than Samsung brands limits on the number of consumers’ willing and able to purchase the service. It is therefore prudent for implementing authorities to consider initiating stern measures to do away with such unfair play. This is in regard to the vast number of service providers in the market. Furthermore, implementing of the technology was not likely to go down well with officers working in the Traffic department due to lose of bonuses earned from number of registered violations. It would therefore require the implementing authority to hatch an alternative way of retaining or ensuring status quo of the implementing officers as a way of encouragement (Danny, 2014).

Adopting “Eyes on The Road” in Qatar

Adopting eyes on the road initiative in Qatar required a lot of corporation from all the stakeholders in the sector including Media, Traffic Department, Society, profit and non-profit organizations (Danny, 2014). Given the above challenges, it was evident that implementing the Singaporean experience in its current form would not be beneficial. It would therefore necessary to initiate radical adjustments to make it compatible to the socio economic, environmental and political needs of the Qatar population. There was therefore a need to ensuring that end users of this technology enter an assurance agreement regarding their privacy before installing the application, otherwise the whole process should be aborted (Danny, 2014).

The current application bugs ought to be fixed to ensure proper testing and quality check before official launching. A robust solution (bug free) is crucial for building public trust and avoiding negative word of mouth. Building several versions of the application compatible with most of the Smartphone devices used by Qatar population would increase the number of target group in the market. Furthermore, there is need for adding detection system feature in the device. The application needs to be light and should be installed directly whenever the user switches to new a phone or install the SIM card for the first time. This could do away with manual input, which is uneconomical (Danny, 2014).

Implementation of the application demands that social aspects of its effects ought to be considered as well. The application should allow the users to identify emergency numbers (maximum of three numbers) that their calls should be received even when the application is on to avoid social conflict and increase adoption of the system. This is because rejection of emergency calls can cause enormous social and economic destruction in the society. It can create a negative perception amongst the users too. More so, consumers should be at liberty to decide on the preferred rewarding system. The application should allow the users to convert miles into rewarding points from list of options available to them instead of creating conditions that may shy them away leading to underachievement on the intended target group in the market (Danny, 2014).

Use of different rewarding system was not envisaged in the Singapore module since gasoline was one of the appealing rewards in their economy. It was one of the most sought products in the market. It was relative to motor vehicle usage too. Since the Singaporean rewarding system would not be applicable in Qatar, there was need to identify the best rewarding system that could be appealing to most of the service users. This led to carrying out of a two days online survey to collect feedback on the following concerns:

  • Frequency by drivers in using mobile phones while driving.
  • Purpose of using mobiles phones while driving.
  • Their willingness to stop using mobile phones while driving
  • Preferred rewards that could encourage them to change their bad habits.

The survey had responses from 206 participants. It was revealed in the survey that about 61% of drivers used mobile phone while driving, 76% of them used for making calls, 17% in texting and 6% used for social media (Danny, 2014).

On asking if they were willing to change their habit or not, 81% of them said they were willing to stop using mobile while driving and declared having rewarding system would encourage them to do the same. The following rewards were highly preferred by the respondents: 34% of the respondents preferred an option of redeeming their miles with Mile voucher from Qatar, Nojoom points from Ooredoo, additional calls and SMS, 27% preferred the option of discounting vouchers from retailers, 20% were interested in getting Vouchers from WAQOOD Petrol Station and 15% were unwilling to change their bad habits despite offers of rewards. Some of the participant suggested financial rewards and exempt from traffic violation (parking violation).

Therefor, it’s recommended to follow the following rewarding system in Qatar:

Ground Collected Miles Earned Points
500 KM
  • 500 QMiles from Qatar Airways
  • 250 Nojoom Points from ooredoo
1000 KM
  • 1000 QMiles from Qatar Airways
  • 300 Nojoom Points from ooredoo
2000 KM
  • 2000 QMiles from Qatar Airways
  • 350 Nojoom Points from ooredoo

 

Marketing and awareness campaigns to integrate with “One Second” initiative of “The National Traffic Safety Committee” are also encouraged. This is to be done through choosing ambassadors to promote the campaign before actual implementation. Suggested local celebrities from the media and sports such as; Mohammed Al-KuwariAqeel, Al-JanahiHamad and Al-Aidah to be incorporated in the initiative. Many success stories by users to be posted on the Social Media like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. This means to share the achieved milestones on social networks in order to motivate others to use the application. Public awareness needs to be raised through various ways. The main module employed is maintaining the accounts on social media. This would increase awareness about the initiative before its official launch.

Publishing Internet advertisements is also one of the strategies used to achieve reduction in road carnage. This to be done through publishing series of teasing advertisements prior to the official launch of the application on most publicly used sites and forums such as “I Love Qatar” and “Qatar Shares” websites. Television advertisement is a good way of spreading the information as well. Prepare series of creative Television advertisements to be launched before, during and after the official launch of the application in partnership with creative advertisements creators. Newspapers Press Releases to be issued in automobile magazines and daily local newspapers as another mechanism of consumer outreach initiative (Duhigg, 2012).

Conducting several public events in this effect. Through two week’s campaign events in the big malls after application launch. The events to be held at “Ezdan Mall”, “Dar Al-Salam”, and “The Mall” to raise awareness about the benefit of the application and to encourage public audiences to install the application and activate it. Plan to make endorsement to arrange for these campaigns in the presence of the initiative ambassadors. Furthermore, radio advertisements and meetings to be held with the initiators and the ambassadors to raise the awareness.

Use of Bigger Change Framework Matrix for change rolling is just but another strategy design to reach many mobile phone users in the market. There are various action plans towards specific targets of changing the bad habit. More so, resources to be channeled from different organizations in this regard.

Existing Organizations like Ministry of Interior (MOI) to be incorporated in the campaign through their capacity to support the initiative financially and provide the resources required to sustain the application infrastructure. This to be done through hosting, supporting and maintenance by utilizing their in-house capabilities. Program Delivery/Modeling, through services innovation is another innovative idea to mitigate existing limits in the campaign towards minimizing road carnage. Organizations like ictQATAR which are already established are well positioned to deliver this initiative. The initiative to be developed to provide a bug free application was the starting point in relation to the identified technical requirements mentioned above. By hosting a contest for developing the solution in relation to crowd sourcing approach, a high value solution for a novel problem through large scale and diverse independent experimentation to be generated. The approach would ensure community involvement and support at early stages. Additionally, ictQATAR had the technical capabilities to evaluate the final solution (IctQATAR, 2013).

Policy Advocacy and Rules Resources to be developed by ictQATAR. To issue a policy that mandate the telecommunication service providers in the country to automatically install the application on the devices, along with default mobile settings. It would also ensure end users’ privacy matters are guaranteed. There is a need to empower people and their cultures. By so doing, they could strategically be in a position to clearly welcome such policies without major hindrances.

“One Second” initiative from “The National Traffic Safety Committee”, like “Ahmeek”, and “WranSade” Working through coalition was necessary to raise community awareness and achieve mass communication messages delivery (The One Second Programme, http://OneSecond.qa). Working in collaboration, the leading telecommunication companies (Ooredoo and Vodafone) and Qatar Airways is mandated to provide rewarding system for drivers who activated the system while driving. In this regard, the end users would have options to convert their miles into either Q-Miles from Qatar Airways or Nojoom Points from Ooredoo and Vodafone (Boudreau et al., 2013).

Given that “Eyes on the road” initiative in Qatar was new, it required careful monitoring and evaluation to ensure its effectiveness. It was therefore necessary for the implementing authorities like the Ministry of Interior, ictQATAR and other partners to share the results of initiative implementation and identify areas for future improvements. A robust implementation strategy with prudent SWOT analysis would effectively identify all the required measured needed to successfully eradicate or rather minimize this menace in the community (Danny, 2014).

“Eyes on The Road” is a Win-Win

The above selected organization would benefit from the above incentives by contributing to implementation of “Eyes on the Road” initiative (Danny, 2014). This could happen by contributing to the company’s corporate social responsibilities record, which can be appreciated by the society and business associates, enhance companies’ reputation especially after aggressive twitter attack via hash tags (#QTel_Fail and #QatarAirways # Fail) from the public audiences against Ooredoo and Qatar Airways in late 2012 and in the beginning of 2013. This could appeal to people travelling via Qatar Airways. Such rewards could as well increase call duration hence enabling callers to be more relaxed when making calls to their peers given removal of the disruption factor (Car Driving).

From ictQATAR standpoint, this will contribute to “Rassed” program of the Social Impact Department established at the ministry, which is aiming to study the effect of the Internet and Information Communication Technologies (ICT) on society and the potential of emerging digital technologies, supporting “Eyes on The Road” initiative will increase the positive impact of the ICT in people’s life that the program is keen to measure.

On the other hand, Ministry Of Interior (MOI) will benefit from low car accidents, which are caused by using mobile phones while driving, which eventually will minimize the need for inspection campaigns on the roads.

Organizations responses to “Eyes on the Road” Initiative in Qatar

It’s expected that the selected organizations will welcome the implementation of the initiative. Since, it’s of a real added value to the community. It’s not doubtable that no one can abide human life loss. In Qatar, it isn’t exaggeration to say that in almost every home there is a victim from car accidents or at least they know a friend who suffered from. As Charles Duhigg mentioned that bad habit is not a destiny, it can be change by finding the right rewarding for changing it. Using mobile phones while driving is a bad habit, which necessitates new approach to change it. Its time to use new model in dealing with traffic accidents other than the penalty model followed by Ministry of interior. Applying this model on the mobile usage habit is a pilot phase that can be applied to other root causes of trauma in Qatar.

Although, that the initiative doesn’t offer direct financial reward to the selected companies (Qatar Airways, ooredoo, and Vodafone), but there will be indirect reward on the long run. A research conducted last year by two management professors at the University of California, revealed that companies in U.S experienced increase in their stock prices by 0.468% within three days of distributing corporate social responsibility news (Todd, 2013).

The society may not seriously activate the application at the beginning. It’s suspected that the adoption will be very low posterior the launch of the initiative. It will take some time to really realize the real benefit from. This is similar to people reaction after the initiation of “National Sports Day”. It took three to four years from majority of people to realize the benefit of having dedicated daily sports routine slot in their schedule. Today, thousands of people are GYM members or are exercising outdoor at Aspire or Al-Corniche.

“Eyes on The Road” would encourage more community contributions. Despite the fact that this initiative would start with the above companies in the picture, this is likely to open door for more organizations to join the initiative as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility programs. The organizations can be of all sizes and types to increase awareness about the initiative and ensure high involvement from largest proportion of the society.

References:

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About aemadi

Qatari Information Technology professional. Who witnessed technology revolution back in 1995. Master in Business Administration, from Qatar University. Perfectionist and passionate about my country. Hopefully will leave thumbnail to this live.
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