The serious threat posed to society by road accidents in the GCC countries was highlighted yesterday when a UK-based expert pointed out that the road deaths cost the Gulf countries $7.5 billion or 1.5 per cent of their gross national product every year.

He said the GCC has only two per cent of the vehicles in the world but the death rate due to road accidents is about 6 per cent of the around one million people killed every year in the road accidents worldwide.

"These figures are startling especially in view of the relatively small population in the GCC countries. In fact these accidents could be prevented and precious lives could be saved especially thinking of the number of pedestrian accidents and those involved have been mainly children," said the senior consultant of UK-based Transport Research Laboratory Allan Quimby.

Addressing a four-day conference here on "Road Safety, Education, Promotion and Publicity" Allan Quimby said the statistics so far available show that the Gulf region has one of the highest road accident and fatality rates in the world.

Quimby attributed excessive number of pedestrians in the GCC states as one of the main factors contributing to the current tragic situation in the region and pointed out that there is a great need to educate and enlighten the people on safety as large number of fatalities were pedestrians and children.

He emphasised the importance of a media campaign to create awareness. Dealing with the situation in Bahrain, Dr Jameel Al Alawi, Chairman of the Studies and Research Committee of the General Committee for Road Safety highlighted the need to undertake research, identify areas which needed concentration and thus develop a message accordingly to start a media campaign.

He also spoke of the need to monitor safety campaigns and their scopes. Dealing with the root cause, he emphasised on the need to teach the importance of road safety in the schools to provide sufficient knowledge on this devastating problem. He said media campaign in general should aim at all group of road users and should cover radio, television print media and even Internet.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Duaij bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Head of Bahrain Traffic Directorate said the course was organised to get the European experts to make their own contributions in helping Bahrain to improve the situation in the island.

Organised by the General committee of Road Safety in cooperation with the Bahrain Society of Engineers and the General Directorate of Traffic, the course would look into new technologies to deal with the problem.