x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A blinking green light means it is time to slow down

Drivers should understand slowing down must be their default action when approaching a junction.

It's a moment of critical choice.

Driving up to a traffic light we see the green light turn to a cautionary amber.

Do we reach for the brake and safely slow down to a stop or do we step on the gas ensuring we're not left willing a red light to turn green?

To save a few short minutes, too many of us apparently are guilty of the latter.

In 2012, Dubai Police recorded more than 20,000 incidents of jumping red lights. It was also the leading cause of traffic accidents in Abu Dhabi - accounting for 11 per cent of all collisions in the first quarter of this year.

Authorities are doing their part to deter this prevalent and dangerous habit by installing surveillance cameras at intersections, imposing hefty fines and black points on offenders as well as mandatory vehicle impounds.

During my teenage years in Abu Dhabi, I was traumatised when, the day after attending a get together, I learnt that two of my friends present at the previous day's gathering had died in an accident after running a red light on their way back home.

This was an all too common occurrence as many people I came across had similar stories of friends or family who were involved in accidents at traffic lights.

Although adherence of traffic laws has markedly improved since the 1990s, the exponential increase in vehicles has caused an equally high increase in red light offences.

People have often complained of cars speeding up behind them and tailing them closely as soon as the green lights begin to blink before they turn yellow.

Forced to make a split-second decision between running a potential red light or having the eager driver filling their rear view ram into them, they often decide to avoid the imminent collision.

And it's not only those in the vehicles who are vulnerable, as pedestrians crossing intersections are also at high risk of being injured or worse by speeding cars.

Even with the increase in pedestrian bridges, intersections still dominate as places to cross most of our roads.

City walkers must at the very least feel confident in their safety when they see the little green man flashing.

The culture of drivers putting the pedal to the metal, even when having the option of safely breaking at an intersection, must be addressed and changed.

Drivers should understand that slowing down must be their default action when approaching a junction.

They ought to be aware that by jumping red lights they not only jeopardise their safety, but that of other drivers and pedestrians as well. They must realise that traffic light accidents often end in serious injury and even death.

They have to value their well-being and lives as well as that of others and not put anyone at risk for the sake of saving a few seconds.

Thamer Al Subaihi is a reporter for The National and a returning Emirati who grew up largely in the US


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