DUBAI // Jamal Mu'addad was driving at 140kph when a herd of donkeys changed his life.
The 23-year-old Emirati customs worker tried to avoid them, but his car veered off Al Huwaylat Road, hit an electrical pole and then the animals. Then it burst into flames.
He's lucky that he managed to escape. Less fortunately, he sustained a serious back injury that has required hospital treatment for the past month and a half.
"Speed is not good for anything, this is what I want to tell people. I will never speed again." he said from his bed in Rashid Hospital.
He is one of a number of road accident victims being treated at the hospital, some of whom have been left permanently disabled, who are eager to have their stories told.
Those stories have one thing in common - the life-changing consequences that can arise from ignoring traffic rules. Some were speeding, others were not wearing seat belts, but all learnt the lesson the hard way, and hope their message can dissuade others from following their example.
Mohammed Al Matroushi, a 33-year-old Emirati working in the military, suffers partial paralysis after the car he was a passenger in overturned on December 24 at the University Road in Dubai. His friend, who was driving, had been talking on a mobile phone at the time, and Mr Al Matroushi was not wearing a seat belt. His friend, who had buckled up, escaped with minor injuries.
Mr Al Matroushi spent two months in the intensive care unit and still has great difficulty even in speaking. Nevertheless, he is happy to be alive.
He managed a smile for Major General Mohammed Al Zaffin, the head of the Dubai Police traffic department, during a recent visit, though his body shook with the effort involved in making the welcome.
"This is God's will and we need to deal with it," Maj Gen Al Zaffin told him. "Some people died of this and we know others who have suffered partial paralysis and they managed to fight it and walk again."
Another customs worker, 24-year-old Mahmoud was ejected from his car after failing to slow down for a speed hump. He sustained serious head and back injuries after his body hit a street pole and remains only semi-conscious three months after the accident.
"He is just getting slightly better and now when I ask him if he knows who I am he nods his head," said Mahmoud's mother, with a troubled look. "I pray that he gets better," she said.
While speed and failing to wear a seat belt are common factors to many of the accidents, they do not account for all.
Saed Rebay'a, a 14-year-old Emirati boy from Al Dhaid, was driving the family car in his neighbourhood when a car came out of a turn suddenly and crashed into him. His face hit the steering wheel, dislocating his jaw - an injury that requires an operation.
"It was not my fault, I was driving in the right direction and than a car came out," he protested to the head of traffic police. His manner was confident, but his word were not clear due to the difficulties he now has in talking.
"But you know that you are not allowed to drive," counselled Maj Gen Al Zaffin. "The first harmful event in this accident is that you were driving the car," said Maj Gen Al Zaffin.
Saed, who is in the 8th grade, assured Maj Gen Al Zaffin that he would not drive again but the traffic policeman was not convinced.
"Underage driving in remote areas is so common and acceptable that young people think that they are allowed to drive in their early teens," he said.
"The problem starts with the parents - they are the ones who allow children to drive. It is difficult to break the practice - we have tried everything but without any real success so far, though we will continue to raise awareness."
Such awareness is not only the responsibility of drivers, Maj Gen Al Zaffin, pointed out.
Othman Al Hadi, an 11-year-old boy from Sudan, was hit by a taxi as he crossed the road on his way to the mosque near his home in Al Karama. Othman, who had not been using a pedestrian crossing, now has a broken leg.
"You need to protect yourself and be cautious and do not cross from undesignated areas," Maj Gen Al Zaffin told him.
Maj Gen Al Zaffin said there were two main problems as far as pedestrians were concerned. "The first problem is that there are not enough pedestrian crossings in some areas.
"The second is that many people are not willing to walk an extra 100 or 200 meters to cross at the designated area."