x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Harsh measures necessary to check speed on UAE roads

The tough measures taken by Dubai to check speeding should be enforced with vigour.

As anyone who has driven between Dubai and Abu Dhabi can testify, driving at high speed when the roads are mostly clear is done with impunity. The drivers - not all of them young and many of them not even in sporty vehicles - force themselves past drivers in all lanes, careering towards their destination as fast as their cars will carry them.

The dangers these drivers pose to themselves and others was highlighted this week through Gulf Traffic Week, not to mention repeatedly in these pages as part of The National's Road Safety campaign. Deaths, serious injuries, the loss of limbs and livelihoods can all result from something avoided easily by allowing more time for a journey.

Sometimes, however, drastic measures are needed to protect people from their own dangerous habits. As we reported yesterday, Dubai is taking such a step: in a policy that is already being enacted in one part of the emirate, police will enforce existing laws and charge drivers caught at speeds above 200 kph with endangering their lives and the lives of others. The crime could land drivers in jail for two years, with a maximum fine of Dh10,000, or both.

These are tough measures, for sure. But the menace of speeding demands tough medicine. One statistic tells a clear story: the head of Dubai's traffic department estimated 15 per cent of drivers fined for speeding were driving above 200 kph. That shows the sheer scale of the problem, and how far it has been adopted in daily driving. It also gives an indication of the large number of people potentially affected by the new policy.

Yet as harsh as these measures are, and as widely applied as they might be, they are unfortunately necessary, and should be enforced with vigour.

Speeding is a dangerous activity that has the potential to harm not merely the driver, but law-abiding drivers and pedestrians. Police have been clear that mere fines are not deterring drivers from speeding. Education, suggested by some, is only a partial solution.

The threat of prison - and the practice of it for some, as an example - could stem the tide of injuries. If it works well in Dubai, it could be extended to the whole country. That would bring the most well-trafficked motorway in the country, the Sheikh Zayed Road linking Dubai and the capital, under its remit. And that would be welcome news for the thousands who make the journey twice a day.