ABU DHABI // An Asian man crosses Tarif Street in Musaffah, away from the safety of a pedestrian crossing or footbridge. As he frantically dashes across the road, he is struck by a car and killed. It is a scenario that is easy to imagine.
Unfortunately, it is a scene that happens too often: nearly 70 per cent of the 101 pedestrian fatalities in 2010 involved Asians, with most accidents occurring between 6pm and 9pm, according to statistics from the Abu Dhabi Police.
Traffic police officials, speaking during a recent media briefing, emphasised the need for increased awareness by pedestrians, who are involved in 30 per cent of all traffic accidents. "A majority of these victims are Asians, and we need to educate them, and everyone else, about this danger," said Col Jamal al Ameri, manager of the customer services centre at the Abu Dhabi Police General Headquarters.
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Statistics also showed that 77 per cent of accidents involved private cars and 78 per cent of accidents involving pedestrians occurred in areas where there were no pedestrian crossings.
In Al Ain, 91 per cent of accidents involving pedestrians occurred away from designated crossings.
Last year, 74 deaths were recorded in Abu Dhabi, with an additional 18 in Al Ain and nine in Al Gharbia.
To combat the alarming number of pedestrians involved in accidents, the traffic police are reaching out through a rigorous one-year awareness campaign.
The initiative, which will be presented in several languages, runs until the end of the year and will involve media, with posters installed and brochures distributed throughout the emirate, including at schools and industrial areas.
"We want to make sure this message reaches everyone," Col al Ameri said. "Those who cross the street from undesignated pedestrian areas will not be tolerated. Every member of the community also has the responsibility of relaying this message."
Chantal Sacre, a Lebanese resident of Abu Dhabi, often walks to work. While she agrees that more bridges would help, she attributes the high number of pedestrian fatalities to a lack of education and awareness.
"For example, if you go near Abu Dhabi Mall, where there is a pedestrian crossing, you see people ignoring it and crossing the street just three metres in advance. It's really frustrating," she said. "It's not like we don't have the crossings. We have them, but people are not using them."
"Even if you see the pavements, they're always empty as people insist on walking on the road," Ms Sacre said. "We've always had campaigns for the drivers, but now we need a campaign for the pedestrians."
More police officers will be monitoring pedestrians, Col al Ameri said, and jaywalkers will be strictly penalised, with a Dh200 fine for offenders.
In addition, traffic police recently announced the construction of nine pedestrian bridges across the emirate, with two in Abu Dhabi city, two in Musaffah, two along the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain road, and three along the Abu Dhabi-Dubai road.
With increased awareness, stricter enforcement, and more pedestrian crossings, police hope to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths by 50 per cent by the end of this year, Col al Ameri said.