RAS AL KHAIMAH // Police fear under age driving has led to more Emiratis being killed on RAK's roads last year than in 2008, despite a fall of 18 per cent in overall fatalities among all nationalities. Police reported 930 traffic accidents last year, which resulted in 80 deaths. Thirty-five victims were Emirati, an increase of 17 per cent on the previous year. There were 97 deaths in 2008, 30 of whom were Emiratis.
Police said the number of nationals dying on the roads could continue to rise unless underage driving among Emiratis was tackled. "It's easy for these children to get the car from their father," said Col Hassan Beraiki, the deputy director of the force's Traffic and Licensing Department. "They do not think it is a problem. But for other nationalities, it's very hard for children to get a car. Their parents won't allow it."
Col Beraiki said raising awareness of the dangers of underage driving among Emiratis was a priority and added that the police "need to talk to the fathers and mothers more". "We have to have monthly meetings and we have to have the fathers and mothers and schools help us. We need public support." Underage drivers were involved in six per cent of road accidents in 2008. Comparable figures are not yet available for last year. The number of severe injuries decreased by 12 per cent last year compared to 2008.
The dangers of underage driving were highlighted last October when two boys from the rural village of Al Ghail, Rashed and Obaid al Mazrooei, aged 15 and 16, were killed in a head-on collision with another vehicle driven by a 16-year-old. In places such as Al Ghail, many parents and older relatives work in Abu Dhabi or Dubai for most of the week, which often means younger boys are relied upon to drive to fetch groceries, for instance.
Following the teenagers' deaths, police launched a series of patrols and talks in schools and youth centres targeting underage driving. At the time, Brig Mohammad Saif al Zafein, the director of the Dubai Police Traffic Department, suggested that the driving age be lowered from 18 to 16, but only if students received 100 hours of professional driving training. As part of the ongoing efforts to curb road deaths, laws enacted 2008 mean drivers caught committing violations, such as speeding, accumulate black points that can lead to temporary confiscation of their driving licence.
"The black point system has now reached the people and they are more aware," said Col Beraiki. "We are treating everyone the same, nationals and non-nationals." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org