RAS AL KHAIMAH // A resident is petitioning traffic authorities to close the U-turn across from the RAK police station where his sister was killed. Mohammed Shahnawaz, 25, mounted an online petition campaign to close the U-turn after reading about multiple incidents at the site. Reaching out to the public through blogs and the social networking site Twitter, he collected more than 200 signatures and is ready to present his case to RAK Police.
Traffic police have already flagged the road between the KFC intersection and the Emirates Road roundabout as one of the deadliest in RAK. The 4km segment, which features six U-turns, had the second-highest number of accidents resulting in death or injury in RAK in 2008, the most recent statistics available. "In my opinion there are two causes of accidents," said Mr Shahnawaz. "One is poor design, the second is reckless driving. The first thing is easy to change. If you go to one of those U-turns and see the car coming from the left side you can't tell if it's going at 80 or 100 [kph]. It's quite difficult to tell from that angle.
"The trend is to blame the driver. They don't ask why drivers mistime it." Mr Shahnawaz has enlisted the help of a traffic data research company to collect information on the U-turn for the police. In March last year, his sister, Suraiyah Akhter, 22, was on her way to hand in a final piece of coursework to complete her degree in fashion and design at Preston University Ajman when she died. She hit a pick-up truck as she moved into the right lane, lost control and hit a tree, rebounding into the path of oncoming traffic.
Her best friend and only passenger, Ayisha Irfan, spent almost three months in hospital and had five operations. She cannot remember the accident. The truck driver testified that Ms Akhter was avoiding a speeding driver who had overestimated the U-turn. The road has a speed limit of 100kph but tends to be treated as a highway by motorists because it leads into the Emirates and Ittihad roads. On Thursdays, it fills with commuters rushing back to their RAK homes from Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
"It's not only me who's been affected, there's lots of families, but what is the solution? What do we learn from this so at least we can reduce the number of accidents?" said Mr Shahnawaz. "We have to get to the emotional core for people to remember the message." His sister was ambitious and creative, he said. The fifth of eight siblings, she dreamt of being a designer and wrote poetry in her spare time. She had already landed a job at a fashion boutique.
"I have a feeling that my sister didn't die in vain and there is a reason that everything happens," he said. "What I can do is make sure others don't go through what our family has been through. That's why I'm trying to raise awareness about the safety of the poor design, so that this won't happen again." Concern over the safety of U-turns has also been expressed in other emirates, with Abu Dhabi's new Urban Design Street Manual, the blueprint for the future of the emirate's roads, ruling that U-turns be banned on major thoroughfares.
Last October, six labourers died when their minibus was struck as it attempted a U-turn on the Al Ain-Dubai highway. Mr Shahnawaz's petition is at: http://roadsofdeath.wordpress.com. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org