20 per cent drop in UAE traffic accidents in 2010, officials say
Changing drivers' behaviour to build on recent successes in road safety will require the participation of the whole community from grassroots up, traffic police officials said yesterday.
Adopting a culture of responsibility, respect for pedestrians and observance of the law among motorists would require the participation of the whole of society, from law enforcement officials to parents and teachers, said road safety campaigners at the opening of the 27th GCC Traffic Week, which runs until Friday.
The number of traffic accidents in the UAE fell by about 20 per cent from 9,658 in 2009 to 7,642 last year, said Brig Gen Ghaith al Zaabi, the director general of traffic co-ordination at the Ministry of Interior.
Fatalities fell nearly 14 per cent, from 966 in 2009 to 826 last year.
Despite the positive results, officials stressed there was room for improvement. Last year the fatality rate in the UAE stood at 10.03 deaths per 100,000, and traffic authorities insist the number must be reduced.
"We are working on a comprehensive strategy which aims to reduce the number of fatalities to 1.5 per 100,000," Brig Gen al Zaabi said. "However, there is no doubt that the community has a significant role to play in order to foster a traffic culture where drivers abide by the law."
Part of these efforts include an intention to include traffic safety courses in the school curriculum.
Each emirate held its own ceremony to commemorate the initiative, which is intended to instil a safe driving culture in the community, starting at the grassroots level.
In Abu Dhabi, a series of events have been planned throughout the week - including a booth with car simulators at Marina Mall where motorists can put their driving skills to the test.
On the Corniche, a tent will be set up starting today, where visitors can view police demonstrations and children can cycle through a miniature traffic city. The tent will be open from 9am to 1pm and 4pm to 9pm until Thursday. On Wednesday morning, police officials will set up a mock accident site, where visitors can see how accidents are handled, with ambulances, aeroplanes and helicopters arriving at the scene.
Other traffic awareness activities are planned throughout the country. In Dubai, a television campaign targeting children and an open house with university students are some of the Roads and Transport Authority's (RTA) activities during the week.
The organisation will transmit a series of safety awareness messages, said Maitha bin Edai, the chief executive of the RTA.
Topics will include safety measures needed when riding a bicycle, using safety belts in vehicles and stressing the importance of crossing roads from the designated passenger crossing points, he said.
The agency will also honour the winners of a traffic education film contest, Your Safety in Your Distance, which was launched by the RTA last December. It was created to teach Dubai college students about the risks of tailgating.
The event will also feature a programme targeting RTA employees with lectures and leaflets encouraging them to use child safety seats.
Mothers of newborn babies and toddlers attended a workshop yesterday at Dubai's Al Wasl Hospital explaining the use of child seats and the importance of wearing safety belts.
In Ajman, police will soon launch a government-supported driving school to help improve the standards of new drivers, said Col Sheikh Sultan bin Abdullah, the department's deputy director.
"The new institute would prepare people both theoretically and practically to be good drivers," he said. "We are already in the final stages of negotiations with a big international driving school that would be our partners." He did not provide the name of the company or an opening date for the school.
The new facility will also work closely with private institutes in the emirate, Col bin Abdullah said. "Our roads are getting safer day by day," he said.
"We have had several awareness campaigns, traffic patrols and inspections. We have fined violators and distributed radars on most roads, all to help save peoples lives on the roads. I am happy to tell you that it is working."
Sharjah already has a government-related driving institute. Other safety efforts in the emirate include radio talk shows, print media ads and increased police patrols.
* With additional reporting by Essam al Ghalib and Yasin Kakande
Updated: March 14, 2011 04:00 AM