Dubai // The number of traffic fines issued to motorists last year declined by 2.7 per cent from the previous year, but the number of seat-belt citations alone increased by more than half, according to new statistics that Dubai Police released yesterday.
The total number of offences recorded over the past year dropped to 2,350,989 from 2,417,253 in 2009.
The majority of offences were registered in the driver's absence; only 401,138 traffic fines were presented to drivers in person.
The number of people fined for not wearing a seat belt in 2010 increased by 83 per cent: 78,513, compared with 41,472 the previous year.
Road safety expert John Hughes, from the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB), said the increase in seat-belt offences indicates that authorities are taking the matter seriously.
"Attempts to increase seatbelt-wearing is a big plus and is highly effective in reducing deaths in accidents," Mr Hughes said.
Over the past two years, Dubai Police have also introduced 27 new speed cameras in the city, bringing the total number in the emirate to 309.
Police invested in 21 mobile cameras, which were deployed by patrols across the city. Another 156 cameras were installed at 55 junctions.
"Dubai has made quite an effort in road safety audits," Mr Hughes said. "It is a systematic effort to look for safety deficiencies in the current traffic system employed."
Also on the increase, by almost 100 per cent, was the number of motorbikes confiscated. In 2009, only 488 motorbikes were confiscated, compared with 965 in 2010.
Statistics also show a drop in the number of deaths involving children under 15 on the emirate's roads.
Eight child fatalities were registered in 2009, while there were six in 2010.
According to police statistics, five children were run over, and three died in collisions in 2009. Last year, four children died in collisions, one was run over, and one died after a collision on a pavement.
The reductions show an increase in public awareness, according to Mr Hughes.
Mr Hughes's organisation is a road safety auditing company that researches and consults with traffic-related government departments.
ARRB audited 2,000km of Dubai roads last year. "We understand that the Roads and Transport Authority is currently working through a list of improvements," he said.
The main concern, according to Mr Hughes, has been speed, but he added, "Dubai has made improvements and roads are now safer than they were a few years ago."
According to the chief Dubai traffic prosecutor, Salah Bu Faroosha, fines may be issued for 174 different traffic offences, but offenders are rarely required to appear in court.
"Violations are issued according to the traffic law," he said. "Only when these violations are contested are they referred to us for review.
"Traffic criminal offences are immediately investigated by prosecutors on the scene with police," said Mr Bu Faroosha.
"After an investigation is complete, whether the case will be referred to court is then decided depending on the situation."
According to Mr Bu Faroosha, last year five cases involving fatal accidents were dismissed. "If an investigation reveals that the drivers are not at fault, then we have to dismiss the charges against them."
That wasn't the case for two men last year who were ordered to pay a record Dh1 million in blood money by the Dubai Traffic Court after causing the deaths of two children and three women.
For minor infractions, the number of fines issued for noisy vehicles and vehicles with unclear plate numbers increased last year, statistics show.
A total of 1,653 drivers were fined for driving noisy cars in 2009, while 1,770 were fined last year.
The number of drivers fined for unclear number plates increased from 1,991 in 2009 to 2,185 in 2010.