Experts call for more visible policing on UAE roadways
ABU DHABI // We have all seen it – a selfish driver barges to the front of a queue, swerves, sounds the horn and forces another driver out of a lane.
It is not uncommon to see motorists drive erratically or waiting at green lights busy on their phones, toddlers sitting on a parent’s lap, or unrestrained children in the back seat dangling their hands out of a car window.
The problem is that not enough people are being stopped on the road as a deterrent, according to Robert Hodges, chief operating officer of Emirates Driving Institute.
“The police do a very good job,” he said. “But as regards to stopping people breaking the law, I see little intervention on the road at all.”
The number of radar cameras installed on motorways, no-flash cameras fitted to traffic lights, and other surveillance devices has increased substantially in recent years.
“A camera captures a speeding car. Three to four weeks later, you get a fine or you don’t pay the fine until the end of the year,” said Mr Hodges.
“The only way that we get people to start obeying the law is by them realising it’s being enforced by the police.”
Experts have called for stronger and more visible enforcement, and sustained road-safety awareness campaigns to curb fatal crashes.
Road deaths in Dubai rose 45 per cent to 112 in the first six months of this year, from 77 for the same period last year.
In Abu Dhabi, 77 people died in 489 accidents in the first three months of this year, up from 54 deaths in 477 accidents in the same period last year.
Motorists in this region tend to have a “pushy” style of driving, according to Mr Hodges.
“Everybody has to hurry in the shops, on the pavement and on the road, and that applies to people behind the wheel,” he said.
“People don’t take the time and trouble to get there safely.” Dino Kalivas, chairman of driver education and training at the International Road Federation (IRF), called for more education to improve drivers’ behaviour on the road.
“Distracted driving, speeding, sudden lane changes, tailgating, and not wearing seat belts are behaviours that require concerted efforts to change,” he said. “Drivers can learn road rules and the mechanics of driving easily but the behavioural aspects are not developed enough.”
Mr Hodges said driving required motorists’ full focus at all times.
Studies showed that using a mobile phone while driving, even with a hands-free device, increased the likelihood of a crash four-fold.
“If you’re using an ordinary hand-held phone you’re 22 times more likely to have an accident,” he said.
“When you’re looking at your smartphone and using it for social networking while driving, you’re 40 times more likely to get into a crash.”
Driving is a privilege, not a right, according to Phil Clarke, a principal road safety consultant at Transport Research Laboratory UAE.
“You should be concentrating on your driving, not trying to send texts, make phone calls, look around and get distracted by children leaping about because they’re not restrained.”
People without the emotional stability to drive a vehicle should not be allowed on the roads, said Michael Dreznes, IRF’s executive vice president.
“Every effort must be made to remove the bad drivers to make the roads safer for the remaining drivers who obey the rules, and have the physical and mental abilities, common sense and the emotional stability to safely operate a vehicle,” he said.
This month, an 18-month-old child in Dubai died after her father reversed his car into her.
Police and safety experts urged drivers to be vigilant and avoid a similar incident by checking for the presence of children before getting in a vehicle.
“You need to walk around at the back of your car, look behind and see if there’s anybody there,” said Mr Hodges.
“To a child, a static car is a static car. It suddenly moves back and kills them, which is unexpected.”
Dubai Police recorded 19 cases of children who were injured from being run over this year.
“There’s a lot of reversing incidents but far more children are killed by being thrown forward inside the vehicle and hitting the windscreen,” said Mr Hodges.
“Just the fact that parents are idiotic enough to put their children’s lives directly at risk tells you how little thought they have about safety.”
Updated: August 20, 2016 04:00 AM