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The New Arab

Feet up, hands off: The alarming new driving trend in Oman

Oman's roads have been refurbished in recent years [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 August, 2017

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A growing number of young Omanis are switching on cruise control, lying back and letting their feet do the work, but the practice of 'hand-less driving' has alarmed experts.
Oman police are are giving some hands-on advice to motorists and warning drivers against using their feet... yes, feet... to clutch their steering wheels.

It comes as a growing youngsters in the sultanate have been caught guiding their vehicles using just their feet or knees.

Some have been customising their car seats to allow them to switch on cruise control, lie back, and let their feet do the work, according to local reports, while road safety experts have warned the craze is making Oman's already hairy roads even scarier.

"What they do is they train themselves and push their seats all the way back so they can sit with their friends, as if he is the commander," Omani road safety expert Ali al-Barwani told Times of Oman.

"We don't need to be experts to know that this is negligence."

Road safety is a huge issue on the sultanate, with over 1,100 people dying on Oman's roads in 2012 - a huge figure considering the country had a population of just 3 million.  

In contrast, the UK saw 1,700 deaths that year, but with a population of around 21 times that of Oman.

Omani road safety campaigners have worked hard to educate motorists in the sultanate on safer driving practices, while the police have tried to deter dangerous driving with stricter penalties. 

It appears to have worked with fatalities dropping to 692 last year, but the roads remain extremely precarious compared to other places in the world. 

One stretch of road in Oman is particularly notorious. The road to Salalah is largely straight and mostly passing through, quiet, featureless desert. But there have been scores of fatalities on this stretch of road over the years. 

Twenty six people have died on the road in a matter of weeks. The straight road is deceptively dangerous, where it is common to see people driving with their feet on the dashboard, often leading to disaster.

Last year, UAE authorities advised nationals - who enjoy driving to the south of Oman for the monsoon season - to fly rather than take the road to Salalah.

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