Abu Dhabi // The number of people killed or seriously injured in traffic accidents in the emirate fell 12 per cent last year, Abu Dhabi Police said yesterday. The decrease, especially among Emiratis, was attributed to tougher laws introduced last March, including a points system of penalties for motoring offences. The statistics do not indicate how many people died in road accidents, but rather combine the number of deaths and injuries. The police said that was done to measure progress towards a five-year goal of reducing road casualties by 20 per cent. They would not elaborate on the statistics.
According to the police statistics, 738 people died or were seriously injured in road accidents to the end of November last year, down from 839 in the comparable period of 2007. Casualties among Emiratis fell by 23 per cent, from 262 in 2007 to 201 in 2008, while the decrease among expatriates was 12 per cent, from 607 to 537. Col Hamad Adil al Shamsi, head of the Abu Dhabi Police traffic and patrols department, attributed the lower numbers to changes made to traffic laws.
"The adjustments to the traffic law had a positive impact on decreasing the rate of casualties, which enhances the effectiveness of the five-year road safety strategic plan that aimed to decrease deaths and serious injuries by 20 per cent," Col al Shamsi said. "We increased traffic inspection campaigns and patrols to catch violations such as dangerous overtaking of other vehicles, crossing red signals ? Many fines were issued, for safety reasons and not for the goal of fining people."
Police confiscated 982 driving licences in the emirate from motorists who had exceeded the 24-point limit since the point system was introduced, the Arabic newspaper Emarat al Youm reported yesterday. Col al Shamsi said the police department is conducting studies to determine the specific causes of road accidents. Mohamed el Sadig, a research fellow at the Roadway Transportation and Traffic Safety Research Centre, based at the UAE University, said: "One thing that I think helped with this is that the fines introduced have been really effective in that people are really taking note of them now."
Mr el Sadig is the principal investigator of a study of road accidents in the emirate. The new statistics show that traffic casualties among those aged under 18 decreased from 111 in 2007 to 93 in the first 11 months of 2008. Among those aged 18 to 30, cases dropped from 337 to 312. Among those 31 to 45, the number fell from 273 to 212 and for those 46 to 60, cases fell from 119 to 101. Accidents caused by collisions between vehicles decreased by 16 per cent, from 403 to 340, while 165 people were run over by cars in each of the two years. According to the figures, accidents caused by jumping red lights rose 136 per cent, and those caused by speeding by 23 per cent. Al Mafraq's traffic police handled the most serious accidents, 192, followed by Al Ain with 89, Al Shaabya 67, Tarif 59, Rahba 43 and Al Jimi with 42. A captain from Musaffah traffic police, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the points system introduced in March was a deterrent. Under the new system, motorists face higher fines and risk car and licence confiscation for some offences and a certain number of black points. "During the old system, people felt more optional about offences. For instance, they had the option to overspeed and then pay a Dh200 fine if caught by a radar. But the new system is extremely strict. For example, the motorist faces a Dh1,000 fine if he crosses a 60 kph speed limit and, more importantly, 12 black points, which means if the offence is repeated again he ends with 24 black points - resulting in car confiscation. After paying several high fines and seeing the accumulation of black points and the hassle they bring, the motorist has no choice but to adhere to the rules." Authorities nationwide are highlighting road safety. In November, the Emirates Foundation, Emirates Driving Company, the Ministry of Interior, Health Authority-Abu Dhabi and Shell together announced an initiative, Salama, under which public, private and non-profit organisations would combine efforts to improve the country's traffic-safety record. * The National