x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Crash footage hits home at world's biggest traffic safety lecture

About 2,000 young people attended a traffic safety lecture conducted by Abu Dhabi Traffic Police and were shown graphic accident footage.

ABU DHABI // Mariam Abdulla took a quick breath when she saw a graphic video of a car being crushed after a lorry ran a red light.

"I thought driving through red lights was OK and not very important," she said. "We do it often."

Mariam, 16, knew ignoring the stop signal was illegal. But until a traffic lecture yesterday, presented by the Abu Dhabi Traffic Police, she did not understand why.

Mariam was one of about 2,000 young people who attended the one-hour talk, which set a Guinness World Record for the largest traffic lecture. Police did not release the exact number of participants.

The lecture was for students, mostly between 15 and 18, at the National Theatre and organised over 10 months by the Ministry of Interior and the police.

"Why in the UAE do we have more deaths from accidents than from diseases?" asked Faiza Mubarak, a lab assistant who accompanied 20 students from Al Mawaheb school.

The school takes safety seriously following the death of a 13-year-old pupil in a car accident three years ago.

Last year, another student was hospitalised for a month.

Every pupil made the effort to visit the hospital and the victim's family, and this year the school has a special team devoted to raising road safety awareness. Pupils at yesterday's lecture will organise presentations of their own when they return to school.

"Students need more information and they have to send this message to their family," said Ms Mubarak.

"They have to know more before they drive. We have to protect ourselves."

The lecture began with statistics flashed on screens but it was the videos of violent crashes that had the greatest effect on Mariam and her peers.

"They put everything in the law but now I know there is a reason for it," Mariam said. "I'm going to tell my friends. I'm not going to let them cross the red light, I'll get out of the car."

During the video presentation, giggles from the boys quickly turned to gasps as images of bodies being thrown from vehicles flashed across the screen.

Clips were followed by the question "who is responsible?".

Police described the loss of life on UAE roads as a "bleeding war" and delivered their message with a strong dose of patriotism that made it clear it was a national duty to act responsibly.

For many youths the videos were also reminders of friends who had died.

"The strong tone of some videos and photos used in the awareness campaign is intended to make people strongly consider the seriousness of the traffic safety message," said Lt Col Jamal Al Ameri, head of public relations at the Abu Dhabi Traffic and Patrols Directorate.

azacharias@thenational.ae