Road accidents kill 17 Saudi schoolteachers in single week

Road accidents kill 17 Saudi schoolteachers in single week
3 min read
12 May, 2016
A series of accidents leading to the deaths have sparked questions concerning road-safety standards in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi authorities said at least one traffic accident occurs in the kingdom every minute [AFP]
The death of 17 schoolteachers in several separate accidents over the past seven days in Saudi Arabia, a week before school examinations are set to begin, have again brought into question road-safety standards across the kingdom.

Seven teachers died in two separate accidents in the northwestern region of Tabuk, while a further seven died in car accidents in the central al-Qassim province.

Two teachers were also killed in a car accident in Mecca and one other in the city of Afif, western Riyadh. The accidents left at least 22 others injured.

The deadliest collision was in Tabuk where a shuttle bus traveling from a school on the Hijrat al-Ruwaidat crashed head-on with a truck, bursting into flames.

Three teachers, two students and both drivers were killed.

Paramedics arrived at the scene but were not able to save the lives of the teachers, said Khalid al-Anzi, spokesman for the Saudi Red Crescent in Tabuk.

Another fatal accident in Tabuk saw the death of four teachers and their driver, when their vehicle crashed at a junction on Khumrah road, north of the city.

"I left with my colleagues after we had attended an end of year ceremony in Unayzah," one of two survivors said. "We were on the road for about 30 minutes then suddenly I heard a loud sound and screams. I turned around and saw that three of my colleagues were covered in blood."

At least 62 teachers have died in road accidents since the beginning of the year, with higher rates reported closer to exam season

At least 62 teachers have died in road accidents since the beginning of the year, with higher rates reported closer to exam season.

"Drivers speed to try and get into schools on time," university professor Abdullah al-Misnad said. "Teachers killed in road accidents while commuting to school and back make up six percent of the total deaths from road collisions.

"Unfortunately there aren't enough police to monitor speed violations on the road," Misnad said. "We can see from some videos posted online that school shuttles carrying teachers are sometimes driven recklessly."

Vehicles used for transport are not regularly tested for safety.

Vehicles used for transport are not regularly tested for safety

"Studies have shown that 20 percent of the shuttles used are ten years old or more, and 86 percent are not rested regularly for safety," Misnad said. "This is a major problem that contributes to the accidents."

In March, Saudi authorities revealed that at least one traffic accident occured in the kingdom every minute, Saudi-based Arab News reported.

"Saudi Arabia witnesses up to 7,000 deaths annually, and over 39,000 injuries per year," said Sultan bin Al-Zahrani, secretary-general of the Traffic Safety Committee in the province.

The kingdom is ranked among the most dangerous in the region for motorists with the fourth highest number of road fatalities, after Iran, Iraq and Oman.