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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Smart speed limits will curb dangerous driving in fog

Deaths are falling but more can still be done to make the UAE’s roads safer for all

Speed limits will be reduced in Abu Dhabi during periods of low visibility caused by weather conditions such as dust storms and fog. Pawan Singh / The National 
Speed limits will be reduced in Abu Dhabi during periods of low visibility caused by weather conditions such as dust storms and fog. Pawan Singh / The National 

Plans to cut speed limits when road conditions are hazardous will be welcomed by anyone who has endured the terrifying experience of driving on a UAE highway when fog, rain or dust storms descend. Many drivers, seemingly under the impression that the simple act of switching on their hazard lights renders them invulnerable, continue speeding, tailgating and swerving recklessly between lanes. The consequences can be horrific. In one of the worst incidents, in March 2008 four people died and 350 were injured in a 200-car pileup on the road between Abu Dhabi and Al Ain on a day that became known as Fog Tuesday. And on a single day in May this year Dubai police logged 400 accidents when a dust storm blanketed the city.

Installing electronic signs to lower speed limits in reduced visibility is the latest initiative in an ongoing battle to improve road safety in the UAE. It follows the scrapping in Abu Dhabi of the sped buffer and a law making the wearing of seatbelts compulsory. But new technology and laws must be reinforced by tough action and backed by effective education. Seatbelts have been compulsory for 18 months but a survey this month revealed that only 70 per cent of road users were aware of the law, and that only a quarter regularly buckled up.

All the world’s drivers meet on the UAE's roads, bringing with them a broad and range of attitudes and abilities. Yet driving tests are still not standardised across all seven emirates and many expat drivers continue to be automatically granted licences without a course of instruction and a test. Still, the road-safety battle is being won. Last year there were 525 deaths on the roads, down from 706 in 2016 and equivalent to just 4.4 deaths for every 100,000 residents. One of the goals of UAE Vision 2021, to reduce the rate to 3 per 100,000, appears well within reach. Ultimately, though, road safety is not about numbers, but people. The avoidable loss of even a single life must be regarded as unacceptable and it is down to each of us to know our own limits, and to respect those imposed by the conditions.