DUBAI // Friday is the worst day for deaths on the roads and most fatal high-speed accidents are caused by drivers in their early twenties.
"Deaths caused by speeding on Fridays, 11 out of every 20, outnumber the rest of the week," said Maitha bin Adai, chief executive of the Traffic and Roads Agency of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai.
The agency analysed accident reports from 2010 and published the findings yesterday. They show drivers between the ages of 21 and 23 were responsible for 40 per cent of all traffic deaths, and 55 per cent of those caused by speeding.
The RTA plans a new publicity campaign in the coming weeks to encourage safe weekend driving.
It will target university students with brochures and messages on electronic billboards, including the campaign slogan: "Speeding shortens your life, not your time."
"The RTA have already done quite a few programmes that target youth, from children to high school and university levels," a spokesman said.
One programme asked university students to produce a five-minute short film with the title Your Safety in Your Distance.
The efforts may be yielding results: speeding as a cause of death in traffic accidents dropped from 18.6 per cent in 2009 to 13 per cent in 2010.
The high death toll on the roads at weekends supports the results of research conducted by Mostafa al Dah, an Emirati from Dubai who wrote his PhD thesis on the causes and consequences of road crashes in the emirate.
The 30-year-old doctoral student at Loughborough University in the UK analysed the records of about 18,000 injury-causing crashes from between 1995 and 2006.
In the last four months of 2006, 16.9 per cent of accidents causing injury took place on a Friday, more than any other day of the week. But in 2005, the year before the weekend was changed from Thursday and Friday to Friday and Saturday, Thursdays accounted for the highest number of accidents at 16.6 per cent.
“I can’t say for sure why accidents spike on a Friday, but I would speculate that it is because people deviate from their week-time driving patterns. They are more likely to drive to Hatta or to Abu Dhabi, and that increased mileage results in increased risk,” Mr al Dah said.
“Interestingly, in the UK, Friday is a traditionally low traffic accident day – maybe because people are coming back from work after a long week and just want to get home.
“But also probably because they are stuck in traffic jams so they can’t go very fast, whereas roads are more open in the UAE.”
He said the UAE also had a “weekend cruising culture” that exists in other parts of the world. “Yes, you do see groups gathering and cruising; whether that plays a part in the statistics is different matter.”
Mr al Dah’s research also found people aged from 19 to 30 accounted for around 43 per cent of all casualties on the road.
He said while first-year drivers are known to be responsible for a significant number of collisions in Dubai, that the 19-30 age group is responsible for more crashes might be explained by simply population dynamics.
“It could be just a reflection of the driving population in the UAE, rather than any specific problems with that age range,” he said. “There is a large young population, and many of them have access to cars because of the relative cheapness of purchasing one, the lower price of petrol, and high income.”
* With additional reporting by Amna al Haddad and Awad Mustafa