ABU DHABI // All vehicles may soon have to be fitted with front and rear fog lights as part of a move by the Ministry of Interior to prevent crashes caused by poor visibility.
It has been more than five years since heavy fog on the morning of March 11, 2008 led to a 200-car pile-up on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai motorway near Ghantoot. The crash killed four, injured 350 others and left 20 cars blazing in a mass of tangled wreckage that became know as Fog Tuesday.
While many improvements to road safety have been made since then, a Roads and Transport Authority spokesman said no move had been made to ensure all vehicles were fitted with fog lights until now.
"Because the specification on vehicles entering the country does not specify fog lights, fog lights are not a requirement to register a vehicle with the RTA," said Ahmed Hashem Bahrozyan, chief executive of RTA's licensing agency.
"The Ministry of Interior and Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority [Esma] are currently working on making fog lights mandatory. Once it is a requirement in the UAE or GCC vehicle specifications, then we can enforce it at registration centres."
Brig Gen Ghaith Al Zaabi, director general of traffic coordination at the Ministry of Interior, first told Al Ittihad newspaper of the plans earlier this week.
"Too many vehicles don't have [fog lights] so we decided to look into making them a requirement," he told The National's Arabic-language sister paper.
Fog lights differ from normal headlamps in that they emit a low beam, angled down at the road's surface. This helps to prevent the diffraction of the broad beam of a normal headlamp as it passes through the water particles of the fog, reducing visibility for drivers.
"The downside is, due to the angle, the part of the road lit up by the fog lights is less than that of the standard head lights and the glare can be intense in normal conditions," explained Ashwani Shiv, divisional manager at Peugeot OBY & Sons in Abu Dhabi.
All of their French-made vehicles are fitted with rear fog lights as a standard feature, while 90 per cent of the cars are fitted with front fog lights. "They definitely create better visibility [in fog]," he said.
Teli Psarras, general manager of German Automotive Engineering garage in Al Quoz, remembers installing hundreds of front and rear fog lights when it became mandatory in Europe in 1998.
"Most European cars have fog lights as a standard option now," said Mr Psarras. "Most of the jobs these days are for American cars."
The price to install them, he said, would depend on the type of vehicle and the quality of the parts. "Getting them from the dealer can be very expensive, since they may ask you to change the headlamps or bumper. But with aftermarket parts we are looking at around Dh400 in labour cost and Dh500 to Dh700 in parts."
Tariq Ahmad Humaid, owner of Tariq's Car Repair Workshop in Ras Al Khor, said installing the lights would be easy.
"It takes about two hours of labour on normal cars and maybe three to four hours on luxury brands. It mostly involves just electrical work," he said.
However, installing the lights will not on its own eliminate the risk of crashes in fog, one road safety expert warned: drivers must also reduce their speed. "Fog lights are not a complete solution to the problem," said Dr Salaheddin Bendak, road safety specialist and associate professor of industrial engineering at the University of Sharjah.
"There should be warning signals or mobile weather stations on the road to alert drivers of fog ahead and to slow down."
Local radio stations, he said, could also help by broadcasting up-to-date fog information.