x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Lessons not learnt from Fog Tuesday

Three years after a massive pile-up on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway claimed four lives, many drivers are still not driving safely in foggy conditions.

In 2008, a massive pile-up on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway killed four people and injured hundreds in what was later dubbed Fog Tuesday. Poor visibility - and careless drivers - were blamed for that tragedy.

Does history repeat itself? Pretty close, it turns out.

Yesterday saw another foggy Tuesday, and yes, another accident on a massive scale. Thirty-two vehicles on the Dubai Bypass Road smashed together in a twisted heap of metal, injuring over a dozen. Two cars were gutted by fire.

Dubai police blamed high speeds mixed with low visibility. Anyone who has been on the highways in the last two days would have guessed that low visibility caused by fog was a factor.

And a heavy foot on the gas is always a threat on the Emirates' roads. And yet, after years of sustained police and media campaigns - such as The National's road to safety - needless tragedies continue. When drivers lack common sense, we must continue to pound the message home.

Road deaths have fallen in recent years, but there is still a dangerous driving culture. For anyone who has driven on the roads during fog, it is obvious that many drivers do not know how to deal with weather. Consider these comments from a driver interviewed last year: "[Speeding] does not matter for me because I think the fog is very rare."

It is difficult, and takes time, to change such attitudes through awareness campaigns. Even simple habits such as using hazard lights in foggy weather persist, despite driving schools (and, again, common sense) showing that such practices are actually more dangerous for oncoming traffic.

Awareness campaigns have a part to play; so does consistent and long-term enforcement coupled with an increasingly visible police presence on the roads.

Speed cameras are not enough of a deterrent to force drivers to slow down. Enforcement requires more police cars on the roads every day of the year, to mitigate all types of hazards - from excessive speed to tailgating, the top two causes of traffic fatalities in the country.

One year of consistent enforcement could reduce dangerous driving habits significantly. Anecdotal evidence shows that drivers' behaviour improves suddenly when a police car is in the area. Only then will drivers listen and will our roads become safer for everyone.