x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai campaign against drink driving stepped up

Police in Dubai are stepping up drunken-driving patrols as the number of fatal incidents increases.

DUBAI // Police said they are stepping up patrols around hotels and nightclubs to curb drink-driving, as fatal crashes involving alcohol increase.

Lt Col Saif Al Mazroui, deputy head of the traffic police, said drink-driving is becoming a dangerous phenomenon in Dubai.

"Combating drink-driving is our main concern for this year, as the problem is increasing," Lt Col Al Mazroui said.

Nine people were killed and five injured in crashes involving drink-driving in the first eight months of this year. By comparison, 2010 had three fatal drink-driving accidents in the same period.

The contrast is starker considering the overall number of fatal crashes has dropped in the past year, from 115 in the first eight months of 2010 compared with 80 so far this year, officials said.

"We discovered that a large number of those involved in deadly accidents had [a] high level of alcohol in their blood when tested, and thus realised the extent of the problem, " Lt Col Al Mazroui said.

The Dubai Police Chief Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim in July ordered a team combating drink driving to intensify its campaigns. There are now four police patrols around the clock in both Deira and Bur Dubai, focusing on hotels and nightclubs.

"We have been accused by some that we are standing outside hotels to catch anyone who drinks alcohol just for the sake of it. But on the contrary, we understand that it is a personal choice, but people who choose to drink need to stay away from the steering wheel and not endanger their own and other people's live on the roads," Lt Col Al Mazroui said.

"We have held meetings with hotel managements and the economic department to explain the necessity of our procedures, and urged them to cooperate with us on the matter.

"We have asked them to distribute awareness booklets on the danger of drunk driving in the hotel, and we directed hotel personnel to try to convince customers who are not sober enough to drive to take a taxi instead, or even stay in the hotel."

The police only stop vehicles that are swerving and fine drivers who are under the influence of alcohol. The level of alcohol allowed in the blood, however, is unclear.

Maj Gen Mohammed Saif Al Zaffin, head of the Dubai police traffic department, said the force had zero tolerance. "Anyone found driving under the influence of alcohol is to be fined," he said.

Lt Col Al Mazroui, however, said there was no exact figure for blood-alcohol level, but that the majority of those fined had very high levels.

A person who is caught driving under the influence gets 24 black points and his driving licence is suspended. His vehicle is also confiscated for two months and the case is referred to the traffic public prosecution, which determines the financial penalty for the offence.

In the first eight months of this year, 536 people were fined for drink-driving, according to police statistics.

wissa@thenational.ae