ABU DHABI // With its network of roads complete with roundabouts, bridges and traffic signals, it has all the elements to test the most experienced of drivers. The motorists on these streets, however, will be as young as five. This is Traffic City, a police-monitored village where children and teenagers can drive real cars on real roads to learn how to be good drivers from a young age.
Unveiled yesterday by Abu Dhabi Police during the GCC Traffic Week opening ceremony, it is seen as a possible solution to the struggle to create a road-safety culture. At a projected cost of Dh150 million (US$49m), Traffic City will provide as realistic an experience of driving as possible. The plans are grand. They include a revolving restaurant, a go-kart circuit and a piano that works in harmony with a fountain.
In one section, children aged five to 12 will be able to drive cars that run on batteries at a speed of 15km/h. In another section, youngsters aged 13 to 17 will be provided with cars that run on petrol and can travel up to 20km/h. They will be monitored by a police control room watching out for any violations. When a driver commits a traffic offence, he or she will receive a message from the police via radio.
The roads will have real traffic lights, roundabouts, overpasses and tunnels, in addition to fog and rain simulators, so the young drivers can experience different conditions and slippery surfaces. "This will teach drivers to commit to the rules at a young age. They will learn to wear seat belts and listen to police instructions since they are children," said Major Ahmed al Niyadi, head of media and marketing for the Abu Dhabi traffic police.
"Our problem here is that nationals do not have enough road safety awareness, even the residents who come to live here are more committed to the rules than Emiratis. "We want to create a national traffic-safety culture so when people visit our country they will describe it as a civilised place with civilised people." Teenagers and adults can also enjoy a Formula One circuit with go-karts that can drive up to 70km/h, and a sandy area with dunes for quad bikes.
Other activities will include bumper cars, canoeing on a pond, and remote-controlled cars for children below five years old. There will also be a fire station that will carry out drills. "Parents can also watch their children all around the city, from the revolving restaurant which is based at the centre," said Jean-Jacques Schwenzner, managing director of Advantage Advertising, the police's consultants on the project.
The project is to cover an area of 250 by 200 metres, with construction to begin next year. Mr Schwenzner said the prices will be reasonable so many children can benefit from the experience. "We are now looking for land to build the project, most probably in Mohammed bin Zayed City or in Shahama.," Major al Niyadi said. "We also need to settle on a construction company to build it." He said construction will take five years.