ABU DHABI // The Federal National Council intends to take up the issue of road safety, the Speaker pledged yesterday. The move comes after The National asked Abdul Aziz al Ghurair if the FNC would be willing to discuss the newspaper's Road to Safety campaign.
"This is a very important issue and we will certainly try to incorporate it into our agenda in the future," he said. The subject is expected to be raised in a chamber meeting of the government advisory body. One of the council's committees would be asked to make an initial study of the issue, Mr al Ghurair said. The National had offered to share statistics, stories and other evidence that might help to further understand the causes of unsafe driving in the UAE.
"We have no problem working as a partner on these issues," said Mr al Ghurair. "We will support a mechanism to work it and to demonstrate the importance of road safety to the public. We will do whatever it takes and engage whatever responsible ministries we can in this." The Road to Safety campaign was launched after the deaths of three young Emirati sisters, who were hit by a car as they crossed a road near the Carrefour supermarket in Abu Dhabi on June 29.
The 40-member council handles issues of public concern in two ways. A member can file a question to a government minister, to which the minister provides either a written or an oral answer. The member can ask for the minister to appear before the council if he is not satisfied with a written statement. Alternatively, at least five members can make a request to the Government to discuss a particular subject.
The Government can either accept or reject a request. If accepted, a Council committee is asked to draft a formal report, to be discussed in the Council's chamber, where recommendations to the Government can be made. The council has discussed road safety on only a few occasions. In 1974, it recommended that the Government fixed the "dangerous Sharjah-Ras al Khaimah road". In 2002, the Council suggested after discussing the policies of the Ministry of Interior, that the ministry "intensifies traffic awareness throughout the year".
It also recommended the use of a black-point system for traffic offences. The system was introduced last year and with it came a significant increase in the number of driving-related fines. Last year, when the ministry's policies were again in the spotlight, Council members were assured by Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, that Sheikh Khalifa, the President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, was personally following the implementation of the black-point system.
The UAE has one of the highest road death rates in the world. Last year, 1,071 people died and 12,273 were injured in road accidents. A poll for The National by YouGov, an international research organisation, found that 66 per cent of people questioned had witnessed a road accident in the past three months. Of those 281 witnesses, 47 per cent had seen at least three accidents during the period. Eighteen per cent of witnesses were present at fatal accidents and 40 per cent had seen accidents that caused serious injury.
Irresponsible behaviour and a lack of respect for other road users accounts for nearly 23 per cent of road accidents in the capital, according to Health Authority-Abu Dhabi, which launched its own road safety campaign, "Drive Safe - Save Lives", last month. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org