Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Death of Emirati sisters in road accident 'was not in vain'

The accident eight years ago triggered The National's Road to Safety Campaign

ABU DHABI // The deaths of three Emirati sisters eight years ago were not inevitable, but neither were they in vain, as the UAE’s road safety improvements have the potential to save many lives.

On June 29, 2009, Shaikha Al Mansouri, 4, her sisters Damayer, 6, and Mariam, 7, and their Indonesian nanny were trying to cross to Carrefour on Airport Road when they were hit by a speeding vehicle.

The girls died at the scene and their nanny suffered brain injuries, leading to her death 10 months later.

The tragedy triggered The National’s Road to Safety campaign, which sought to bring about changes that protect drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians.

“It is very risky for pedestrians to cross where there are no facilities for them, especially on the wider roads where there is fast moving traffic, often changing lanes, making it difficult toaccurately gauge speed, distance, and vehicle paths,” said Phil Clarke, a principal road safety consultant at UK consultancy Transport Research Laboratory UAE.

“Crossing these roads on foot can also take a lot longer than people anticipate, increasing their exposure to the risk.”

The campaign focused on pushing for improved infrastructure, road design, raising safety standards, proper enforcement, proper traffic control, incident response, and better pedestrian management.

Since then, there have been awareness campaigns, rigorous law enforcement and continuous development of pedestrian crossings, tunnels and footbridges - including where the 2009 incident happened.

Road safety campaigns, extra police patrols and new speed cameras have been linked to a substantial drop in road deaths this year.

Statistics bear out this progress: Abu Dhabi Police said 60 people died on the roads on the first three months, down from 77 in the same period last year. Injuries were down by about 40 per cent – from 148 people to 90.

Of the other emirates, Ras Al Khaimah reported a slight drop from 14 to 16 road fatalities. Sharjah Central region saw six deaths, compared with 16 from January to March last year.

The UAE has constantly upgraded its road network, investing in smart traffic systems and infrastructure and carrying out inspections to reduce the likelihood and severity of accidents, said Phil Clarke, principal road safety expert at the Transport Research Laboratory.

“Road authorities throughout the UAE are building new roads or upgrading infrastructure which is designed to manage vehicle speeds by including traffic calming measures such as speed humps in residential and commercial areas.

“There’s a need to improve compliance with existing speed limits through structured and better targeted education, awareness campaigns, preferably aligned to enforcement and publicity.”

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has started painting parts of certain roads red to make newly implemented speed limits more obvious.

The red paint gives motorists enough of a warning that they are able to gradually reduce their speed without having to suddenly apply their brakes.

Speed change warning zones are already in place in parts of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed bin Sulatan Street (formerly named Salam Street) and Sheikh Khalifa Highway.

In Abu Dhabi, police have activated no-flash cameras at traffic junctions that use infrared light to detect offences including vehicles running red lights, crossing pedestrian lanes, excessive speed and turns or U-turns from the wrong lanes in Abu Dhabi city, Al Ain, Al Dhafra, Al Reem Island and Al Maryah Island.

The system saw a 64 per cent drop in the number of crashes due to cars jumping red lights between 2013 to 2016, said Lt Col Mohammed Al Shehhi, director of the traffic and road safetyengineering Department at the Abu Dhabi Police’s Traffic and Patrols Directorate.

Speed bumps and other measures to slow traffic will be installed across the capital over the next two years to reduce speed-related accidents.

“I commend UAE on its constant efforts to make roads safer,” said Michael Dreznes, executive vice president of the International Road Federation, which promotes better, safer and sustainable roads.

“Road safety is a marathon, and not a sprint. It takes time to see the effects of the efforts. An evaluation process is required to determine if the initiatives are the correct countermeasures.”

Updated: June 28, 2017 10:48 AM