OUTLOOK — By Ahmed Al Falahi — A short time ago newspapers and websites published a summary of an American study which appeared in the German news agency (dpa), it found that the number of American youngsters having driver’s licence has fallen by 60 per cent which shows unwillingness of American youths to get driving licenses in this car-loving nation. The study found that the number of licensed drivers within the age bracket 17 to 19 years old has dropped from 80 per cent to 60 per cent during the last three decades. The reason behind this phenomenon is related to Internet usage, according to the authors of the study.
Researchers from the Transport Research Institute at the University of Michigan compared Internet users to driver’s licence holders in 15 countries, including the US, Germany, Spain, Japan and Switzerland and found that the number of young drivers is thinning out in countries with high Internet usage, Michael Sivak, study supervisor told dpa, “This shows that virtual contact through electronic media reduces the necessity for real contact in young people”.
However, Sivak opined that the drop in young Americans having driver’s licence can also be attributed to economic hardships, with decreasing numbers of youngsters who can afford to buy a car and pay for petrol as well as increasing numbers of teenagers moving to big cities and using public transportation.
This story has captured my attention and made me draw a comparison with the traffic situation in the Sultanate. Col Mohammed bin Awadh al Rawas, Director-General of Traffic, pointed out that the number of cars in the Sultanate has risen by 37 per cent from the beginning of this year, putting the reason down to the recent increase of young Omanis getting jobs and, of course, this percentage is likely to go up for the same reason. In the same statement Al Rawas said the number of driving instructor’s cars has reached 4,000 so far. More importantly, some citizens are demanding exemption from the minimum legal age for driver’s licence eligibility. All these indicators reflect that the number of driving licence holders is going to increase, bucking the trend in the advanced countries who are witnessing lower licence issuance.
This is a reason for concern as more cars on the roads means an increase in the number of road accidents.
Public transportation should provide a solution to the problem and I believe it is high time we give it some attention. With 40 years of development the Sultanate is capable of carrying out national transportation projects and the more we delay it the bigger the loss we will incur, whether it be in souls or money.