ABU DHABI // Driver licensing, motorist training and road safety education are to be overhauled as part of major changes to improve the country's poor road crash record and reduce traffic congestion. Learner drivers could face more rigorous tests as part of a programme designed to improve road safety. The Ministry of Interior has said it plans to overhaul procedures for learners, improve road safety education and implement studies on cutting congestion and managing crash black spots.
There were 1,056 deaths on the roads last year, up 20 per cent from 2006. About 12,210 people were injured, an increase of nearly six per cent. Traffic congestion is also worsening and the country loses about Dh5 billion (US$1.36bn) to it a year, according to a department of planning and economy report. Col Gaith al Zaabi, the director of the ministry's traffic department, said it would implement new procedures for learners, including the setting up of driving schools and centres throughout the country.
Col Zaabi added that new classifications for driving licences would be created, although details were still being discussed. Currently each emirate has its own regime, although licences are valid across the country. Col Zaabi said the department would soon sign agreements with organisations that will study how to improve behaviour on the roads through education and enforcement. The ministry is also studying the possibility of setting up a traffic research institute, developing heavy vehicles inspections and standardising vehicle inspections across the country. "Every study will come out with a number of recommendations and those recommendations will be used as a basis for improving the situation," said Col Zaabi. The proposed studies come out of a recently formed federal traffic committee, chaired by Saeed al Hanki, director of the police research centre at the Ministry of Interior. Starting today, a five-day seminar on traffic safety management systems is being hosted by Abu Dhabi, bringing experts from around the world. Issues to be addressed include the nature of car crashes in the Arab world, traffic safety on the international level and improving infrastructure. The event is organised by the UAE Traffic Safety Society, the International Organisation for the Prevention of Accidents and the Arab Organisation for Traffic Safety. Abu Dhabi Police and the National Authority of Transport are also participating. During the first half of this year, 433 road accidents and 65 deaths in the Dubai emirate were blamed on drivers aged from 18 to 28. This compares with 380 accidents, involving 47 deaths, in which the drivers accused of fault were aged between 30 and 40. Most crashes involving young people are said to occur as a result of speeding or recklessness on the part of drivers aged between 20 and 25, almost always male and often at the wheel of a vehicle costing hundreds of thousands of dirhams. The Ministry of Interior initiatives join a Government plan to get old cars off the roads and to toughen vehicle emissions standards. Starting next month, light vehicles older than 20 years will be taken off the road when their registration comes up for renewal. That will park about 68,000 light vehicles by the end of 2009. In January, a ban will also be imposed on the transfer of light vehicles more than 10 years old. firstname.lastname@example.org