x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Tragic reminders about road safety

Another traffic death has led to new appeals, from the victim's friends, for safe driving. We've made progress against road deaths, but not enough of it.

Any death is the occasion of mourning, but sudden death in young adulthood is doubly tragic.

On Friday night Osama Nasralla, a 20-year-old student from Jordan, became the latest reminder of that, when he died in a single-car accident at the intersection of Muroor Road and Al Falah Street in the capital.

Mr Nasralla's friends and loved ones are of course mourning his death in various ways. Some of his friends at the Petroleum Institute, where he was on a scholarship studying mechanical engineering, have joined in a Twitter safety-awareness campaign, with the hashtag DangerDriving.

That is obviously fitting and natural, especially since Mr Nasralla was the third Petroleum Institute student to die in traffic during this term.

However, the idea of focusing on safe driving following a sudden death has become painfully familiar. Just last September the talented UAE footballer Theyab Awana died in a collision at age 21, leading his relatives, with support from friends and teammates, to implore everyone, and especially young people, to drive more safely.

The message, along with lower speed limits and better enforcement of road rules, does seem to be trickling through. The total number of road deaths in the UAE was 720 in 2011, down significantly from the toll of 826 lives cut short in 2010. This is progress but not enough of it.

Mr Awana was, by all accounts, texting while driving when he smashed into a lorry with fatal force. Police are still investigating the crash that killed Mr Nasralla but preliminary reports suggest that speed may have been a factor and that he may have swerved the Lexus he was driving to avoid a pedestrian.

Whatever the ultimate findings in that latest case, it should be apparent to all that speeding, divided attention, pedestrians crossing when and where they should not be crossing and drivers' lack of respect for pedestrian crosswalks are all persistent problems on our roads.

Ideally, society would not need to keep putting human faces on the dangers inherent in driving. In the real world, heartfelt pleas from anguished friends and relatives do no doubt contribute to lowering the death toll. But so will tighter speed limits, more thorough driver education and resolute enforcement of the laws governing our conduct on the road. The price of inattention is too high to keep paying.