x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

DangerDriving hashtag has Twitter abuzz

An online road safety campaign started by an Emirati university student topped Twitter's trending topics for three days, but enforcement is needed to make a real difference.

ABU DHABI // When university student Sara Al Balooshi started her road safety awareness campaign on Twitter earlier this week, she never expected her idea would generate thousands of responses and spark a collaboration with local authorities.

Ms Al-Balooshi was inspired to start the DangerDriving hashtag, which has remained one of the social media site's top trending topics in the country for three days, after she witnessed a car crash on her way to class.

"This is happening a lot now, especially with young people," said the 19-year-old Zayed University student.

"I wanted to find a way to help reduce accidents. This is the main goal, to get people to know that's an issue that we should care about."

Two days after DangerDriving became the most popular topic on Twitter, Ms Al Balooshi teamed up with UAE Together, an initiative launched by traffic police in March to cut down on road deaths.

The new campaign, using the hashtag DriveSafelyUAE, rocketed to the top of the trending topics in the UAE yesterday, the first day it was used.

"This is about getting a message out to the UAE," said Sultan Al Darmaki, an Emirati businessman and photographer who helped promote DangerDriving.

"One of the challenges we face is that people say there is no way this is going to have an impact. I explain that you have to have an idea of what happens next."

UAE Together stepped up their campaign this week, urging residents to take an active role in cutting down on road incidents. The DriveSafelyUAE tag allows users to share tips and facts about road safety and raise awareness about dangerous driving habits.

The traffic police will also be speaking with motorists and handing out literature on the dangers of speeding and using mobile phones while driving.

A British expatriate living in the capital said education should start before drivers ever hit the roads.

"The UAE needs a major road safety initiative, starting in schools," he said.

"Driving is, without doubt, the most stressful aspect of life here. Everyone bangs on about speeding and mobile phones, and while it's blindingly obvious to anyone with any sense that speeding while sending a text is incredibly dangerous, there are other problems here."

Anais Abram, an Armenian-American living in the capital, said awareness and education were important, but change would only happen "when people start to realise the magnitude of what damage could be caused through reckless driving".

"Until most of the issues in danger driving are resolved, I will still hug my family goodbye, ask them to text me when they arrive, and say a little prayer before I get into my car," she said.

jthomas@thenational.ae