10:00 AM
37

As covered yesterday by Gulf News (and today it's in the Muscat Daily), the ROP announced it's 2011 total count for accidents on the roads last Saturday (December 31st, 2011). The facts are out, and I'm not even surprised by the stark reality that, even with the bizarre way the ROP calculates its figures, deaths on the roads in 2011 had risen by 22% since 2010 with 1,051 deaths recorded. In 2010 the ROP reported 820 deaths (and 2009 reported 953 dead).

As for injuries, they were up too: 11,322 injuries on the roads last year, compared to 7,571 injuries in 2010, thats an increase of 33%. Now, the population of Oman is 2,773,479 (as found by the Census in 2010) - so, if we pretend that every one of the 2.77 million people are driving (which they obviously are not) you have a 0.04% chance of dying on the roads (4 in 10,000), a 0.41% chance of being injured on the road (41 in 10,000) for a combined total 0.45% chance of something bad happening to you on the roads (before just regular injury-free accidents), or put another way 45 out of 10,000 of us, statistically met with an injury or fatality on the roads in 2011. When you factor in that of the 2.77 million of us living here in the Sultanate, there are obviously a large number of those that are not even drivers, so, in reality the % chance of something happening to the drivers amongst us is higher. And, it gets worse than that; the ROP does not include in their figures, those people that succumb to their injuries in hospital and die later - they are recorded as injuries and not fatalities. Additionally, I understand that children that die in car accidents are not registered either - I'm not 100% sure of that claim but it's certainly one that I've heard said more than a few times before. So even with the figures massaged, the facts are incredibly alarming.

So what is going on? Obviously, Oman is currently going through a population boom, and every day more and more people are born, more are driving, more are having accidents - so as the population increases, the total number of accidents is expected to naturally, but this increase in road deaths is outstanding. It's my opinion that as more adolescent Omani's start driving, more of them are recklessly driving with no care whatsoever what they are doing. Perhaps this is due to a simple case of ignorance, driving fast, overtaking on blind corners, not changing tyres before they burst at high speed etc - perhaps people do not know that they need to think when driving. The annual maintenance check could be made stricter, so those running on bald tyres are made to change them before renewal. It's a daily occurrence I see trucks and even taxi mini-buses running with bald tyres, yet in my entire time here, I've never heard of an ROP officer fining someone for having bald tyres.

I do not have access to the raw data so I'm going to make an assumption here: I'd say the largest cause of accidents is speeding. Let's face it - most of us have had speeding fines here - I've been living here for 4.5 years, and I have had 2 speeding fines - 1 in Qurum on the flyover and 1 up near Shinas at 1am on my way back from the UAE one weekend. If this was a country like Canada or the UK, my insurance premiums would have been jacked up, and I would have had points put on my license - too many points on your license and you lose your privilege to drive. But here, in Oman, I just paid the RO 10 fine both times, and went about my day. I know people that get speeding tickets all the time, they just dont care because it's only a tenner. Speed limits are for those people without wasta. You know I'm telling the truth.

The only way that is going to get people to reign in their need for speed in this country is to use the rule of the big stick - which is used so frequently elsewhere in this part of the world for a number of things. People are inherently lazy, so will cut corners, park on hard shoulders of highways instead of getting off the highway, speed because they're late, and so on. The ROP have been fairly vocal (for them) in the press over the last year asking people to slow down and buckle up, there's been the displays around the country and a number of ad campaigns - people just dont care - because what's going to happen? A 10 rial fine, if that.

The ROP have started deploying portable speed cameras, but everyone knows where they are (18 November Street, Al Mouj Street, Muscat Expressway and the road from the Expressway to Bank Muscat r/a) and so it's not really working. RO 10 for speeding is not a deterrent that is working. But the ROP are presumably issuing more speeding tickets as a result of this. Oman used to have a points license system, back in the day. For some reason unknown to me, this system seems to have been abandoned, yet in the Oman Traffic Law multiple references to a point system are made (see page 137 of 149 on the link for a table of fines).

Take a look at what has happened up in the UAE - there driving has been brought under control by use of a very large stick : drive like an ass and you'll pay for it, ultimately (if you are an expatriate) you could even lose your residence visa for driving like an idiot. The fines are much larger there, and the point system is in effect. I might argue that the fines there, or the penalty of losing your visa is a touch on the extreme side, but it seems to have worked.

So if the ROP are serious about starting to control this situation here, which by all accounts they appear to be serious, then we should expect to see a similar methodology deployed here: an increase to speeding fines, more spot-checks on road-worthiness of peoples vehicles, and more undercover cars with speed measuring devices. An increase in the speeding fine is essential - and for all those who say RO 10 is a lot to some people, for sure - no doubt it's a lot for some people - so surely they should bear that in mind and not drive over the posted speed limits then.

I hear it so regularly from people from all walks of life: I don't know how I got these speeding fines - I wasn't driving that fast. People seem to think it's funny and cool, when in reality I want to remind them that people are dying or getting injured at the rate of 1.4 an hour in 2011.

Here are my top 5 action items that I'd like to see improvements on in 2012 for traffic safety here in Oman:

1. Increase speeding fines
2. Bring back the points system
3. Totally over-haul the driving instructor / licensing system to include a road theory test & qualified instructors who have passed a stringent exam and are qualified to instruct people to learn to drive (currently you just need to have driven for 10 years to qualify). (I'm not even joking).
4. Make the annual maintenance check stricter, including actually inspecting cars less than 3 years old.
5. Carry out spot-checks on road-worthiness

What do you think of my list? Any other suggestions?

le fin.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oman is a joke

Anonymous said...

Good ideas. As a new arrival, I was appalled at the speed and recklessness of so many drivers. We purchased a large vehicle for that reason only. More interaction with the police and the drivers on the road would help.

Anonymous said...

I don't think speed is the cause only a factor. and it is possible to drive fast safely - provided everyone else on the roads are safe drivers too.

What they really need is proper instruction to begin with. Some of the most dangerous maneuvers I have seen on the roads here were done in driving instructors vehicles without passengers so I assume the instructor carried out these ridiculous maneuvers..

Anonymous said...

It's true I'm guilty of speeding on occasion, but your figures are scary and I'm feeling justly reprimanded. I will try to be more patient. I do have to comment, though, on the thoughtlessness of drivers who drive rather aimlessly, at a much slower rate than the speed limit - in good weather - just meandering from lane to lane or suddenly turning without any signals. They are as exasperating, though mostly less dangerous, than the speed demons who rush up to your rear bumper and flash their lights when you are traveling at the limit. Both sorts need fines and remedial driver training!

A major contributor to accidents in the northern parts of Muscat (Al Mawaleh, Al Hail, Al Khoud, etc.) is the continued use of unsafe roundabouts on major roads instead of signaled intersections. Especially during rush hours with long lines of cars piled up behind them, drivers feel compelled to dart out recklessly into the speeding whirl and often cause accidents.

Lover, Lover. said...

India reports 22 road deaths per hour, pakistan could well be similar. Who taught the driving instructors who are teaching now? Yup, you guessed right.

Bald tyres, or ones with not enough pressure in, are a serious concern, especially here where heat plays such a factor.

Sarah MacDonald said...

Mandatory car seats for children and huge fines for people who let their kids sit on their laps in the front seats, especially the drivers. I realise that around here children make good airbags, but it's high time that changed.

Lawrence of Azaiba said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Mobile phones are my no1 pet peeve.

Once the ROP stops talking on their mobiles whilst driving, and fining and stopping residents that do so, that will reduce the number of accidents.

Every near miss I've been in has involved the other person talking on their mobile.

The no2 pet peeve is arrogance. Oh I have a high end car with a low number number plate, so it's fine if I drive like an idiot, tailgating, undertaking, cutting up. And yes, as a woman speaking, it is often women that are the worse at playing this wasta! :-))

Lawrence of Azaiba said...

Fantastic post Mr. Sythe.
It all goes back to that constant thorn in my side here in Oman: the quality of education, both from schools and at home.

Only yesterday, I was overtaken, as was the vehicle in front of me in the same manoeuvre, by a young buck in a 4x4 on a blind bend in a built up area in Azaiba with three kids riding bikes around the corner.

People need to be brought to task. Maybe I should blog a bit more about it.

You're doing a good job sir....keep it up.

Lawrence

Anonymous said...

Texting is the worse. Check out my statistics: You need to be a passenger travelling on one of the main highways to do this survey. Look across to the car on your right as you overtake. Texters tend to hold their GSMs low and to their right and are distracted for prolonged periods of time. Approximately 1 in 20 drivers is texting. If you see a car ahead driving very slowly and/or erratically it’s almost a dead cert he is texting.

Anonymous said...

On a bus trip to Nizwa the driver was on his mobile most of the time. On the return journey 8 hours later he was obviously very tired and fearing the worst we politely asked him if he would mind not using his mobile. After several reminders he did stop but for the remainder of the journey was constantly looking down to the shelf, below waist level, presumably to read messages.

Maroof said...

@ Lover Lover, the instructor doesnt teach you to speed and neither he teaches you talk or text while driving, it is simply not right to blame someone else for your mistake.

As per the topic, increasing the fines, would do the trick, i am sure. The driving instructors are making this into a business, which should not have been.

Anonymous said...

Last week on the expressway we were following a car travelling very slowly in the middle lane. The traffic was heavy including lorries and so a lot of cars were backed up behind him resulting in various hair-raising manoeuvres as other cars tried to overtake. Eventually we got past and-you've guessed it-he was texting... but with both!!! hands, totally unaware of the chaos around him.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, previous anonymous, Oman is by no means a joke, but a country that - from what I have seen in living here for the past 6 years - is in the process of very gently developing into a modern state, unlike others who try it with force and end up with bloodshed and violence.

To me, point three is the number one: competent instructors, theory tests and wasta-free examiners, who actually know what to look for in a capable driver are in dire need in order to make the new generation of Omanis responsible drivers. And yes, the annual inspection of older cars certainly needs to be a bit more thorough than: "turn the lights on and off". Higher fines might help, but personally I always believe in education and reasoning rather than punishing, although I know I might just be a little idealistic with this idea here...

Anonymous said...

It was not written in a light hearted manner but in despair. Texting while driving is a very serious problem. Also it is not confined to Oman. There have been numerous instances of people walking into stationary objects while texting. Could it be the cause of the reported numerous incidents of collisions with stationary objects and run overs of pedestrians by vehicles?.

Anonymous said...

The driving examiners are a big problem. If I had a rial for every time I've seen one of those cars being driven solo by an examiner who was texting or calling...

The huge proportion of very young drivers is a big part of the problem, too. It's hard to convince 19 year olds in ANY country that they aren't invincible...

Lover, Lover said...

@Maroof- What the hell are you bleating on about? My mistake? What is my mistake in all this?

Driving instructors teach you respect for other road users, to understand the rules of the road and that safety is a priority in any situation. That is where they are lacking in passing on the rules of the road. And, of course, going all the way round a roundabout in the left lane, using hazard lights when slowing down or when it is raining, undertaking in the slow lane and a plethora of other maladies.

Sythe said...

Some great comments everyone - and yeah texting while driving is something that seems to be getting out of control. I remember a couple years ago I saw a guy full on reading a news paper as he drove. Insane.

Good observations about the driving instructors too. And Sarah - good point about kids and their air-bag worthiness! :D

Thanks for all your comments!

Anonymous said...

I think the UAE model is not much applicable in Oman for reason that most of the reckless driver are young Oman's rather then expatriates, Moreover growing populations and joblessness is another major challenge for the Govt to overhaul the Traffic instructions system

Anonymous said...

Sythe driving instructors only need to have been driving for 5 years X_X
I am very sure about that.
Most driving instructors only teach you how to pass the test, few will really teach you to be a good driver.

Anonymous said...

Drivers in Oman need to take responsibility for their part in the high rate of road traffic accident deaths and injuries that could be avoided....maybe if they adhered to the traffic rules and regulations that the government has put in place and policed on a regular basis without having (officials) breaching the law that they have been sworn and entrusted with, Oman would be a much safer place to drive.
A good number of drivers in Oman think that they own the road and no one can criticize them, and THINK they know better than everyone else and no one will stop them because of who they are or who they know. It is such a sad and shameful thing to realize that Oman’s number of deaths related to road traffic accident is higher than other countries that are at war, whether it’s per day, per month or per year. So, be careful driving and hope to god that one day they might wake up and realize that this is a war in Oman with many casualties, and that it will never be resolved unless the correct measures are put in place immediately and solemnly adhered to by the government, locals and foreigners driving in Oman.
I am pretty sure that everyone in Oman is aware of the road safety committee, the traffic exhibitions and the driver awareness programs and so on. That is all well said, but after a certain time they all go back to their dangerous old routine. Yes I do agree that safe driving awareness is very important, but statistically it’s not working, so don’t you think it’s about time we try a different method of approach instead of waiting for more people to die or get injured.

Achieving the above will be extremely hard, especially when you have some government officials and locals opposing the fact that they must follow the very rules that might save their live and others. There argument will be that it’s impossible to adapt to all these changes due to local cultures and the locales cannot afford this financially. It’s simple if you cherish your life, your family and friend’s lives then the price is never too high, and yes the culture will change FOR THE BETTER and I’m sure people will agree in any culture that if something saves lives then it’s better for it. It all comes down to how much you are willing to risk for your loved ones and your country.

Anonymous said...

Cell Phone is a real problem. You notice that the car in front of suddenly slowed down and you have assume that he/she got a phone call or sms.

Anonymous said...

Great i agree,get these instructors to do a course and be taught how to teach correctly.Plus jail the mobile user for a day or two.Enough is enough.

Anonymous said...

I was driving in the UAE last week and was surprised and impressed at the way the traffic stuck to the speed limit, even on a long straight road in the desert with a limit of only 80 kph. It was quite difficult to drive so slow but I remembered getting a UAE fine once and it was really expensive, much higher than the pathetically low ones in Oman. And even if the Emerati rule of withdrawing visas would not work in Oman, they also have a points system that affects nationals and this is being implemented - just last week the National newspaper reported the number of people who had lost their licenses in November for exceeding the permitted number of points. Losing one's driving license would hit anybody equally hard and is not affected by their economic status in the way that a RO 10 fine does. For those that can afford to pay them, speeding fines in Oman are nothing more than a license to drive over the limit, for sale from the ROP.

Anonymous said...

We are all agreed then:
1. Talking / texting while driving is dangerous.
2. Over speeding (or not driving in a suitable manner for the conditions)is dangerous.
3. The driving instructors are very, very poor at instruction and do not set a good example.
4. The ROP are the biggest offenders of speeding and using mobile phones, whether in their own car or the boss's.
5. Bus drivers who use a mobile phone while driving with paying passengers on board should be charged with negligence and beheaded.
6. Parents who allow their children to ride in the car unrestrained should be castrated to prevent further breeding, their licence taken off them and then beheaded.

Let's add some more:
- Speed humps or "breakers" are there for a reason - to slow you down as you move through an area that may have lots of pedestrians. Usually this means a mosque, but not necessarily schools. Insane.
- When you run across the highway because you are too lazy to walk the long way (tough, buy a car), you look just like a bowling pin. Bowling pins react violently when struck by a heavy bowling ball. So does your body. Except your body turns blood red as you fly through the air.
- Roads have certain markings on them designed to increase traffic flow. Some of these explicitly mean "Do not park here because you will interrupt the flow of traffic and hence, cause delays in traffic all the way to Seeb you bloody idiot." So don't park where you aren't supposed to.
- While you are on the road, try to plan your trip. Indicate and position yourself for corners earlier rather than later.
- Yawn. Bored now.

Anonymous said...

Motorway lane discpline is none existant here. I've lost count of the number of numpties (usually our Asian brethren in their 15 year old Toyotas)crawling along in the middle lane at 20 or 30 kph below the speed limit totally oblivious (mirrors, what mirrors?)to the congestion and chaos they cause behind them. This invariably causes tailgating and undertaking with all the dangers that ensue. Until training is improved, standards enforced and culprits punished nothing will improve, sadly.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem goes deeper than speeding and driving tests. Some European countries do not have 'speed' limits on certain roads but do not have the same accident rate. Every year Oman has the 'Traffic Symposium' advertised heavily to improve things, but it seems not to have an effect on the individual driver based upon the stats you posted.

And one reason could be is they (the Omani people) don't connect their actions with the consequences. Many Omani people seem to maintain an idea of fatalism/destiny; that whatever happens is the will of the 'higher power' and going to happen anyway thus distancing them from any responsibility in the making of the situation.

This attitude is very dangerous if operating a vehicle. This is especially evident with the lack of use of car seats with small children and by letting kids sit in the middle front. Then, when there is a serious injury or death- it is said that it is god's will not the irresponsibly of not securing the children properly. The standards are low and no one wants to really raise them.
Also, on a different note ROP does not grant automatic licenses to expats from certain South American countries which I find unfair considering expats from Europe and the USA can get Omani driving licenses using their national licence.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in Oman for years -- since 1988 -- and have seen huge changes in driving etiquette. When I first came, if you indicated a turn, more often than not the approaching car on the other side of the intersection would stop, blink their headlights, and indicate that you should proceed. Boy, are those days gone! Now, the operative attitude is "After ME, you come first!" People act as if the Sultante's roads and highways were their own personal property. It's enough to make you lose all faith in the intrinsic good of humanity.

The way many people drive in the Sultanate defies the imagination. Many of their actions defy all logic. Who in their right mind will try to overtake another car on the right when he sees the other driver is indicating a right turn -- and is, indeed, already moving to the right?? This is more than stupid, yet it often happens to me when I'm exiting a roundabout. Another one: what kind of dolt does it take to consider overtaking a car on the right, crossing in front, then moving on left into the inner lane to pass yet another car? Is he channeling his inner slalom skier, perchance? It's grotesque! Or what about drivers who happily pass other cars on the hard shoulder with a curve up ahead, around which he cannot see? There could well be a car stalled in that emergency lane. But no one even considers this possibility.

Then there's the tailgaiting problem. Apparently, no one is taught how much space is necessary between cars in order to stop suddenly and safely. Who is taught that if you are driving at 100 km/h, then you are moving at a rate of a shade under 28 m/s!! Are you going to be able to stop in time to prevent an accident if you're only two meters behind the other car. You won't if the laws of physics are still in force, which I do believe is still true. Now, if you're driving at 180 km/h, then that m/s rate shoots up to 50 meters per second!!! Imagine the inertia that builds up at that speed, so if you come to a sudden stop -- like against a stationary object of some kind -- it's curtains for you and everyone else involved.

Another problem is the utter lack of consideration one driver has for another. I was taught -- many, many moons ago, of course -- that if you see another car merging into the flow of traffic from another lane or from a freeway access ramp, then you tap your brake just enough to allow that car to enter safely. Here, if anything, drivers speed up. If a traffic cop in North America saw that happen, the driver would be pulled over, given a ticket, and charged with reckless driving. Why? Because it's frickin' dangerous, that's why! Like I said earlier, the operative attitude is AFTER ME, YOU COME FIRST! Until that changes, I have little hope for much improvement in the driving habits of local drivers.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in Oman for years -- since 1988 -- and have seen huge changes in driving etiquette. When I first came, if you indicated a turn, more often than not the approaching car on the other side of the intersection would stop, blink their headlights, and indicate that you should proceed. Boy, are those days gone! Now, the operative attitude is "After ME, you come first!" People act as if the Sultante's roads and highways were their own personal property. It's enough to make you lose all faith in the intrinsic good of humanity.

The way many people drive in the Sultanate defies the imagination. Many of their actions defy all logic. Who in their right mind will try to overtake another car on the right when he sees the other driver is indicating a right turn -- and is, indeed, already moving to the right?? This is more than stupid, yet it often happens to me when I'm exiting a roundabout. Another one: what kind of dolt does it take to consider overtaking a car on the right, crossing in front, then moving on left into the inner lane to pass yet another car? Is he channeling his inner slalom skier, perchance? It's grotesque! Or what about drivers who happily pass other cars on the hard shoulder with a curve up ahead, around which he cannot see? There could well be a car stalled in that emergency lane. But no one even considers this possibility.

Then there's the tailgaiting problem. Apparently, no one is taught how much space is necessary between cars in order to stop suddenly and safely. Who is taught that if you are driving at 100 km/h, then you are moving at a rate of a shade under 28 m/s!! Are you going to be able to stop in time to prevent an accident if you're only two meters behind the other car. You won't if the laws of physics are still in force, which I do believe is still true. Now, if you're driving at 180 km/h, then that m/s rate shoots up to 50 meters per second!!! Imagine the inertia that builds up at that speed, so if you come to a sudden stop -- like against a stationary object of some kind -- it's curtains for you and everyone else involved.

Another problem is the utter lack of consideration one driver has for another. I was taught -- many, many moons ago, of course -- that if you see another car merging into the flow of traffic from another lane or from a freeway access ramp, then you tap your brake just enough to allow that car to enter safely. Here, if anything, drivers speed up. If a traffic cop in North America saw that happen, the driver would be pulled over, given a ticket, and charged with reckless driving. Why? Because it's frickin' dangerous, that's why! Like I said earlier, the operative attitude is AFTER ME, YOU COME FIRST! Until that changes, I have little hope for much improvement in the driving habits of local drivers.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in Oman for years -- since 1988 -- and have seen huge changes in driving etiquette. When I first came, if you indicated a turn, more often than not the approaching car on the other side of the intersection would stop, blink their headlights, and indicate that you should proceed. Boy, are those days gone! Now, the operative attitude is "After ME, you come first!" People act as if the Sultante's roads and highways were their own personal property. It's enough to make you lose all faith in the intrinsic good of humanity.

The way many people drive in the Sultanate defies the imagination. Many of their actions defy all logic. Who in their right mind will try to overtake another car on the right when he sees the other driver is indicating a right turn -- and is, indeed, already moving to the right?? This is more than stupid, yet it often happens to me when I'm exiting a roundabout. Another one: what kind of dolt does it take to consider overtaking a car on the right, crossing in front, then moving on left into the inner lane to pass yet another car? Is he channeling his inner slalom skier, perchance? It's grotesque! Or what about drivers who happily pass other cars on the hard shoulder with a curve up ahead, around which he cannot see? There could well be a car stalled in that emergency lane. But no one even considers this possibility.

Then there's the tailgaiting problem. Apparently, no one is taught how much space is necessary between cars in order to stop suddenly and safely. Who is taught that if you are driving at 100 km/h, then you are moving at a rate of a shade under 28 m/s!! Are you going to be able to stop in time to prevent an accident if you're only two meters behind the other car. You won't if the laws of physics are still in force, which I do believe is still true. Now, if you're driving at 180 km/h, then that m/s rate shoots up to 50 meters per second!!! Imagine the inertia that builds up at that speed, so if you come to a sudden stop -- like against a stationary object of some kind -- it's curtains for you and everyone else involved.

Another problem is the utter lack of consideration one driver has for another. I was taught -- many, many moons ago, of course -- that if you see another car merging into the flow of traffic from another lane or from a freeway access ramp, then you tap your brake just enough to allow that car to enter safely. Here, if anything, drivers speed up. If a traffic cop in North America saw that happen, the driver would be pulled over, given a ticket, and charged with reckless driving. Why? Because it's frickin' dangerous, that's why! Like I said earlier, the operative attitude is AFTER ME, YOU COME FIRST! Until that changes, I have little hope for much improvement in the driving habits of local drivers.

Marcella said...

Road deaths are commonly caused by irresponsible drivers. Common perpetrators are DUI offenders. Thousands of innocent victims die yearly because of this never-ending problem in our roads.
child injured at school lawyer

Dreatori Alexis said...

Woah! That accident really looks nasty. The police should've immediately reported a traffic advisory. They better call personal injury attorney immediately.

Anonymous said...

Increase the safety rating of the car. most car in oman haven't proper safety rating.. in Dubai and Oman Safety rating of car is different

Dean Runyon said...

It's about time for the government to make a move on this kind of issue. It don't only concern the safety of the motorists and the condition of the road.

Ebony Bee said...

It’s about time the law implements strict laws on cyclists/bikers’ safety. The road doesn’t belong to car drivers only. We all have equal rights to use it, and together with that, we have the right to safety. If this succeeds, then more people would buy motorcycles because they’re cheaper and faster.

Ebony Bee said...

It’s about time the GOVERNMENT implements strict laws on cyclists/bikers’ safety. The road doesn’t belong to car drivers only. We all have equal rights to use it, and together with that, we have the right to safety. If this succeeds, then more people would buy motorcycles because they’re cheaper and faster.

bus from penang said...

I stumbled upon this site through search engine and I have been reading along all the blogs posted. They are very well written indeed. Thanks.

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