ABU DHABI // Police and road safety experts have suggested reducing the enforced speed limit to 140 kph on the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain motorway.
They believe it would reduce crashes. They would also like to see people driving more intelligently regardless of the speed limit.
Col Hamad Al Baloushi, Abu Dhabi Police's head of traffic in the external regions, said he hoped the enforced speed limit would be lowered soon from its current 160 kph.
"The number of cars on the road have increased and you must take this into account," he said.
In the first quarter of 2012, the number of road deaths on the E22 decreased, but the number of crashes remained nearly constant over the same period in 2011. During the same period, crashes decreased by a third on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai motorway, where the enforced speed limit was lowered from 160 kph to 140 kph in April 2011.
Police recorded 87 crashes, six deaths and 14 serious injuries, 36 medium injuries and 31 minor injuries on the E22 in the first quarter of 2012.
During the same period of 2011, there were 83 crashes, 10 deaths, 14 serious injuries, 27 medium injuries and 32 minor injuries.
Injuries on the E11 decreased significantly in first quarter of 2012 compared to 2011.
Col Al Baloushi said the reduction in crashes along the E11 was due to more than just the speed limit, however.
"These drops resulted from a number of reasons including an increase in enforcement through radars and police patrols."
He also noted that on the E22, the enforced speed limits are 160 kph only on the less inhabited stretches.
"Maximums drop down as low as 120 kph in the more residential areas of Al Wathba and Al Salimat, closer to the cities," he said.
"Speed limits alone do not prevent accidents, the attitude among people must change. Drivers must take into account the conditions and traffic - we can't have people saying they were driving 160 kph in fog just because the speed limit says they can."
(While the legal speed limit throughout the E22 is 120 kph, the enforced limit - the point at which police begin issuing speeding tickets - ranges from 120 kph to 160 kph.)
Experts said the drop in crashes on the E11 is likely a consequence of the lower enforced limit.
"The authorities should take that and apply it to all roads where the enforced limit is 160 kph," aid Dr Abdulilah Zineddin, a road safety specialist based in Abu Dhabi. "When you reduced it from 160 kph to 140 kph that obviously reduced the speed variation among drivers on the E11 and that led to an enhancement in safety. Whereas on the E22 nothing has changed, so why would you expect any difference?"
Al Ain and the eastern region had an incident rate of 17.21 fatalities per 100,000 with 83 deaths in 2011, according to statistics from the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi. It was an improvement over the 2010 rate of 21.77 per 100,000, but still above the emirate's average of 14.31.
A Department of Transport (DoT) study from Al Ain found that 50 to 80 per cent of drivers did not comply with speed limits. Data was collected from 120 locations on the city's road network, including six points on the E22.
The study found that 18 per cent of motorists drove above 160 kph, 60 to 70 per cent were above 140 kph and 30 per cent drove below 110 kph. Such drastic variations are a leading cause of crashes.
"Reducing [the enforced speed limit] from 160 kph to 140 kph would potentially reduce the crash risk by 90 to 95 per cent ... and 140 kph will be consistent with the enforcement speed of other highways," Dr Arif Mehmood, a road safety engineer, said at a road safety conference in Abu Dhabi in October.
In the meantime, a strict enforcement of the 160 kph limit would reduce crash rates by about 65 per cent, he said.
Dr Yaser Hawas, a professor of transportation and traffic engineering at UAE University, said the speed limit was the most likely reason for the difference in rates but cautioned that absolute numbers could not tell the full story.
"The rates you have to look into are how many fatalities and injuries per vehicles per kilometres travelling," said Dr Hawas. "Unfortunately none of the agencies keep track of this number. That's the true measure if you want to compare between two roads."
The DoT has told drivers to adhere to the posted limits, regardless of what is enforced.
"Speed management is not about issuing speeding tickets, it is about seeking driver compliance," said a DoT statement.
"It is important to remember that the posted limit is the legal speed limit. The posted speed limit is the only limit that a driver needs to focus on."
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