AL AIN // A top police officer condemned "suicidal" drivers yesterday after more than 300,000 speeding tickets were issued in Al Ain in the first four months of the year.
"The main reason behind this huge figure is simple - people are reckless and fail to abide by the traffic laws," said Col Hamad Nasser al Baloushi, the head of the traffic police.
"People were driving so fast on the Al Ain-Dubai road it was as though they were committing suicide."
All the 307,557 offences, 5,000 more than in the same period last year, were captured on fixed radar, at an average of about 2,500 a day.
Many of the tickets were issued on the Al Ain-Dubai road, where police reduced the speed limit from 160kph to 140kph at the beginning of the year in an effort to curb dangerous driving.
Col al Baloushi was speaking the day after a father and two of his children were killed in a head-on car crash in Al Ain.
Khalfan al Shamsi, his 10-year-old son Mohammed and his daughter Mira, 5, died in the accident on Sunday morning. Mr al Shamsi's wife and three other sons were injured.
The driver of the other car involved was arrested.
Col al Baloushi said population changes in Al Ain had affected traffic enforcement. According to the latest figures the population in 2009 was 530,299, 68 per cent of them expatriate.
There are almost 400,000 drivers in Al Ain, Col al Baloushi said, but the number of driving offences could not be directly correlated to the number of licence holders.
“We must remember that people come from other emirates, and that many pass through Al Ain on the way to Oman,” he said.
Al Ain residents say the wide and open roads, both inside and outside the city, made it tempting to drive fast.
“That’s the main difference between Al Ain and other cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai,” said Jake Gilson, an Al Ain resident from the US and an instructor at United Arab Emirates University.
“The downtown area here is fairly small, and once you leave it you’re immediately driving along wide and long roads. Most streets in Al Ain are prime for speeding.”
Residents also say an increasing number of fixed radars and a lack of adequate signs have created a perfect recipe for an increase in the number of speeding tickets.
One resident from the UK said he received only two speeding tickets during his 30 years of driving in the UK, but in Al Ain he has had four in one month.
“Driving laws in the UK are very strict,” he said. “So clearly, this must indicate there is a problem.”
Signs that indicate the speed limit are few and far apart, the 51-year-old said. “You drive along an open road wondering what the speed limit is and driving at about 100. But by the time you reach a sign that indicates the speed limit is 60, it’s too late.
“There are a large number of expats here, and there needs to be more signs that clearly communicate the speed limits.”
Residents said a contributing factor was the lack of driving etiquette, particularly among young people. Almost 40 per cent of Al Ain residents are between the ages of 20 and 35.
“There is a certain arrogance among younger drivers, both men and women, that they can drive as they please,” Mr Gilson said.
“It’s not only about speeding, but about the overall driving attitude.”
Iman al Sallal, from Yemen, said: “It’s more common among the younger drivers. When they’re on these open roads they feel they are free to speed and do whatever they want.”
Ms al Sallal, 24, has received just one speeding ticket in two years of driving in Al Ain, and learnt her lesson.
“I stay in the middle lanes now and try to avoid drivers who speed along the left and right lanes,” she said.
To curb the number of speeding tickets issued, and to persuade motorists to slow down, Al Ain traffic police are planning a new enforcement campaign.
“We will increase the number of fixed radars and police officers monitoring the roads,” Col al Baloushi said. “We will also launch an awareness campaign that targets all drivers. For this behaviour to change, people must perceive it for what it is – a crime.”