DUBAI // Motorists caught for running a red light or other driving offences during Eid al Fitr are in for a sweet surprise when officers hand over their ticket. Dubai Police are to repeat last year's successful Eid initiative by giving away 20,000 boxes of chocolates to drivers who break the law over the three-day religious festival.
"Anyone who is stopped by police for committing a traffic violation in Eid should expect a gift," said Col Saif Muhair al Mazrouei, deputy director of the traffic department. The chocolates will be presented with a traffic awareness brochure outlining the dangers associated with different types of offences and a special message: "We wish you a happy Eid. Thank you for complying with traffic rules and regulations so that this season passes joyfully, with no traffic accidents or violations."
"We tried it last year and it was very successful," said Col Mazrouei. "People really appreciated it and most importantly have learnt from it." In the case of minor violations the chocolates will replace a fine, though there will be no leniency for more serious offences such as driving through a red light or reckless driving, he said. Police have already started to prepare Dubai roads for Eid by blocking and closing down those streets and areas expected to become overcrowded during the annual shopping rush.
"There are more police patrols that have been dispatched, which will be working night and day," said Col Mazrouei. "Streets have been closed down and alternative routes have been opened up to try and ease the crowding in the next few days as people shop for Eid." The closure is affecting several streets, including the market area in Khaled Bin Al Waleed, Al Satwa, Al Rigga and Al Rafaa roads, the Naif market, Al Waraqa Road and Al Awir area.
Col Mazrouei appealed to shoppers to do all they can to ease congestion and help people move about safely. "We ask people to park in the distance and walk as there will be no entry to some areas in the next few days," he said. "If possible, people with drivers should get dropped off and then have their driver return to pick them up later on. This will help keep fewer cars on the roads and will be less hassle for people to find parking."
Cars carrying the elderly and those with special needs will be allowed to access the markets, he said. The number of deaths during the busy Ramadan season has dropped considerably this year, something police credit to a new traffic law. So far in Abu Dhabi there have been 332 accidents, compared with 456 during Ramadan and Eid last year. Police said 12 people have died and 34 were seriously injured, compared with 35 deaths and 74 serious injuries last year.
In Dubai, there have been 17 fatalities compared to 34 during the same month last year, and 244 accidents. The Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) announced that parking fees will be waived from tomorrow until Saturday. Najib al Zarouni, director of RTA Traffic & Roads Agency's parking department, said the parking fees were waived in line with an RTA strategy to participate in community events. The Bur Dubai traffic department recorded 53,000 traffic violations and the seizure of 1,950 vehicles over the past month, after increased enforcement by Dubai Police.
"We are upgrading the performance of our traffic control and the application of the laws," said Col Mazrouei. "We have intensified our traffic campaign with the aim of policing the road efficiently, and not being lenient with violators of the laws." He said the traffic control teams recorded a record 1,711 violations a day during August. Col Mazrouei explained that traffic personnel have been focusing on implementing good traffic behaviour, which includes stopping drivers who are "not committed to the ethics and rules of traffic and transit," he said.
From the start of the year until August, 35,409 violations were issued in absentia and another 17,637 violations were issued on the spot. There were 4,874 parking offences, 3,549 of which were for parking on the pavement. Police issued more than 600 fines to people driving with out-of-date licences. Another 560 fines were handed out for driving on the hard shoulder and 480 for parking in private places or where it would cause a fire hazard.