x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

UAE needs tougher action on the roads

Road safety experts say that in order for graphic videos of traffic accidents to be more effective, they should run simultaneously with tough police enforcement activities.

As you walk into Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi, you cannot help but notice the graphic video of car accidents playing in the lobby of the shopping centre. This is part of a recent local campaign to educate people about road-safety.

Shock tactics have been an effective way to spread the road-safety message in many countries. And they are much needed in a country like the UAE, where traffic accidents are the main cause of death. However, safety experts believe that in order for them to be more effective, such ads should run simultaneously with tough police enforcement activities.

Every day, police issue tickets on violations ranging from exceeding the speed limit to driving vehicles with expired registration. However, many bad drivers pay the fines and simply go back out on the roads. And so many believe that tougher laws are needed. As The National reported yesterday, Salah Bu Farousha, head of Dubai Traffic Public Prosecution, called for tough new laws, saying that the laws in place don't allow judges to impose sentences that match the severity of the offences.

The prosecutor is right. Road deaths figures are horrific and despite efforts from the police and the courts, numbers don't seem to be decreasing. In Dubai, for example, there were 724 accidents between January and March of this year with 48 deaths. Compare that to the same periods in the last two years; 33 deaths in 2011 and 27 in 2012.

More transparency is also needed, as "statistics are not clear and not readily available," Mr Bu Farousha said. Last year, research led by a professor of transport and traffic engineering at UAE University suggested that the number of traffic offences committed in the UAE is higher than the number of penalties issued. The study also revealed that drivers who violate traffic laws once, would likely do it several times. And so tougher laws could be the answer.

Education is also important to reverse this trend, by increasing the number of awareness campaigns, like the one in the Marina Mall. Reckless driving should never be viewed as normal; peer pressure would certainly help in cutting down traffic violations.

When society becomes fully aware of the negative consequences unsafe driving can have on their lives and others, maybe then we will see fewer deaths on the UAE's roads.