DUBAI // More than four-fifths of the 922 motorists who had their licences suspended last year were drink-drivers.
Dubai's traffic court suspended 748 licences for drink-driving, 51 for causing a fatal accident and 123 for other offences such as speeding, jumping red lights or causing non-fatal accidents.
"In the overall sphere of things, we've had an average number of offences for a city the size of Dubai," said Salah Bu Faroosha, Dubai's chief traffic prosecutor.
"According to the latest figures, 800,000 cars enter the Dubai road network every morning. And the number of alcohol-related traffic cases has remained fairly consistent over the past three years. That said, we are seeking to push these numbers down by keeping a closer eye on offenders."
Mr Bu Faroosha did not have complete figures, but said the total number of alcohol-related cases registered at Dubai Traffic Prosecutors Office last year was in line with the 1,199 in 2009 and 1,250 in 2010.
Of the drink-drivers prosecuted last year, 94 had their licences suspended for a year, and 654 were off the road for between three and six months. Of the 51 drivers who caused fatal accident, 21 lost their licences for a year and the rest for between three and six months.
Although he was unable to provide comparative statistics, Mr Bu Faroosha said the number of deaths on the roads fell last year.
He said the combined efforts of Dubai Police, the Roads and Transport Authority and other Dubai government institutions had led to a marked decrease in road fatalities in Dubai in the past five years.
According to a study released last year by Dubai Police, the number peaked in 2007 at 332, and by 2010 had dropped to 152.
"For our part, we are continuously pushing for the toughest punishments against dangerous traffic offenders. And with the courts suspending more licences, a strong message is being delivered," he said.
"We have been pushing for the toughest sentences for offenders and the courts are sending out a strong message to drivers to beware by issuing such sentences."
Ruyhan Ahmed, a 28-year-old Egyptian driver, said harsh sentencing had helped to put him back on the straight and narrow.
He was pulled over last year for a registration check and officers found two open cans of beer in his car. Last month Mr Ahmed's licence was suspended for three months and he was fined Dh20,000 for driving under the influence of alcohol, Dh5,000 for possessing alcohol in a motor vehicle and Dh2,000 for illegal consumption of alcohol.
"I have stopped drinking and will think twice before I return to the road again," he said. "I have seen other drivers injured or detained for worse offences and I am glad that this was as far as it went."
Mr Bu Faroosha also warned drivers who have their licences suspended not to drive.
"We had a number of cases last year where people who had their licences suspended were caught driving," he said. Their suspensions were only compounded further, he said: they faced a maximum three-month jail sentence and a Dh5,000 fine.