Safety of teenage bikers a concern

By Lakshmi Kothaneth — MUSCAT: Dec 10: Motorbikes are a rage among teenagers in the Sultanate, especially in the interior areas. While it’s easy to zip around on bikes, it has also raised an important concern: safety of the young riders. Although a licence is required to ride a motorbike, many teenagers tend to skip the process. The law doesn’t allow registration or import of bikes below 70 CC because they are a “hindrance on the road”.  “A licence is required, but most teenagers ride without it. Now most bikes are of 125 cc and above,” said Maher al Barwani, a biker who has made a mark in the international arena.
Nizwa Bikers is a recently formed club whose objective is to reach teenagers how to properly ride a bike. Al Barwani has been training young riders as well. “I teach youngsters how to ride (a bike) the right way inside as well as outside Oman.”
Training includes making teenagers aware of traffic and safety rules. Traffic safety was the subject of a study at a school that participated in the Shell Road Safety Awards 2016. Salma al Hanshia, an ‘activity specialist’ at Al Jimah Basic School in Wilayat Bahla, felt the need for a study as motorcycles were having an impact on young lives. ‘Motorcycles – Go Safely’ was the topic of her study.
“We analysed motorcycle and cycle accidents from 2002 to 2015. The increase in the number of accidents was evident. Our objective is to ensure students’ safety and inculcate traffic safety culture among motorcycle riders,” said Salma.
The school’s next challenge was to convey the concept on a mainstream platform. The plan was to design a website. But the team learnt the website had fewer hits.
“So we created a Facebook page.” The team struck gold because they soon found an interactive audience. There was yet another obstacle as they were missing out on students from Grades 1 to 4. “We made educational games so the children could understand them,” said Salma.
“We wanted a larger part of society. We wanted parents to be involved too.”
Accompanied by students from Grades 10 to 12, a teacher visited the Nizwa Jimah Basic School to present the concepts to teachers, students and parents. “We’ve been conducting workshops on how to ride safe, how to perform first-aid, how to assist the injured and how to put out a fire.”
The teacher is excited with the response. “Students are keen on such workshops and they want more.”
“We have noticed an increase in the number of visitors to the website, Facebook and Instagram accounts. What we really need are ‘Special Passes’ for motorcycles.  Our request to parents is to please ensure that before you gift your child with a bike, teach them the rules and values to protect them from accidents,” said the teacher.
Sure enough, Salma al Hanshia became one of the recipients of Shell Road Safety Awards 2016.