ABU DHABI // A mobile phone company is using shock advertisments to remind motorists about the dangers of talking while driving. Du has placed the adverts on radio, in magazines and on billboards. One shows a shattered mobile phone sitting in a pool of blood with the message: "The person you're trying to reach is no longer available".
The advertisements are among recent campaigns launched by private companies and the Government to warn the public about dangerous behaviour in cars, including letting young children ride without using a seat belt. They are among a wider series of efforts being made to cut the number of people killed on UAE roads. Last year 1,056 people - three a day - died this way and another 12,210 were injured, according to Ministry of Interior statistics.
Police introduced a points system in March to punish errant drivers and have run a number of safety campaigns, clamping down on jaywalking, speeding and blocking the flow of traffic, among others. A campaign launched last Thursday, called Salama (Safety), will see private, public and non-profit organisations co-ordinating efforts to improve road safety. Motorists said they thought the mobile phone advertisements, although violent, were an effective way of getting across an important message that would go some way to reducing deaths.
"There are a lot of accidents on the streets so we have to make this so people will get this picture when they are driving," said Bedros Daoudian, 34. "People need to be shocked. A lot of people are dying for useless reasons." The penalty for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is Dh200 (US$54) and four points on the driver's licence. Hala Badri, the vice-president of corporate communications for du, said the campaign aimed to raise awareness.
"Every life is precious and with the ever-increasing traffic on the UAE's roads, the importance of road etiquette and public safety techniques need to be emphasised," he said. "We hope citizens will benefit from our initiative and set an example for others to follow." Sana Hawamdeh, an assistant professor of psychiatric mental health at Sharjah University, said such a message might get a reaction out of people and make them think twice about using mobile phones while driving. Over time, however, they would probably go back to their old habits.
"We want to motivate people not to do it and we want to create a habit out of such things rather than just being scared of something," she said. A television, newspaper and magazine campaign launched this month by Chevrolet, in partnership with Safe Kids Worldwide, the National Transport Authority and Unicef, reminds parents to make sure their children use seat belts. In the print advertisement, two pictures are displayed side-by-side, one showing a mother holding a child in her lap and the other showing the child strapped into a car seat, accompanied by this message: "If you really want to hold on to them, let them go and strap them in".