x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Fatal RAK U-turn under new pressure to close

The death of a woman on 'the most dangerous road in RAK', which police promised to close last year, prompts petition.

Cars doing a U-turn into fast-moving traffic on the E11 in RAK.
Cars doing a U-turn into fast-moving traffic on the E11 in RAK.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // The death of a woman on "the most dangerous road in RAK" - a black spot police promised to close last year - has prompted renewed calls for the U-turn to be shut.

A petition demanding the closure of the U-turn on a stretch of the E-11 motorway was signed by more than 200 people and was presented to traffic police last year by a man whose sister died there two years ago. No apparent action has been taken since.

According to the most recent police statistics, the road is the most dangerous in the city, and Mohd Shahnawaz, whose sister Suraya Akhter, 22, died there in March 2009, said: "I tried my best. I spent three or four months of my life trying to get that U-turn closed down."

He added: "The head of traffic police told me he was going to close it down and I don't know why it hasn't happened."

Ukrainian Dasha Pushkar, who worked as a sales representative for the Acacia Hotel, was killed on Sunday when she pulled out of the U-turn and was hit by an oncoming vehicle at about 11pm.

Mr Shahnawaz said he had met with officials from the royal courts, the traffic police and the public works department since his sister's death. When the public works department said it would take measures after a road safety survey was done, Mr Shahnawaz worked with an independent road safety company which studied the road for a week and then sent recommendations to the police.

Col Nasser Muradad, the director of the RAK traffic and licensing department, said last year that an intersection would replace the road's six U-turns on a 4km stretch. Traffic police officials confirmed yesterday that they had recommended the public works department close the U-turn.

Abdullah Yousef, the manager of the emirate's public works department, said plans to improve the road were still in place and the area was being surveyed. He did not comment further.

Mr Shahnawaz said: "They don't have to do a survey again. I don't understand why the U-turn is not closed. I don't know if they're serious about it. I don't know what they're waiting for."

Ms Pushkar had received her licence just a few weeks before her death and was driving a few hours after a rainstorm had hit the area.

"She was in a hurry to get her driver's licence, it was really important to her," said Marina Dubina, a friend who worked with Ms Pushkar in Egypt and was her neighbour in the UAE. "On her Facebook page she even published a video clip with her first drive in RAK. She was so happy."

Olga Bezverkha, 35, a Ukrainian colleague and friend of Ms Pushkar, said Ms Pushkar was excited about the new freedom that came with a car. She had texted her friends when she got her licence and her Facebook profile photo showed her smiling behind the wheel.

The lack of action has led to a lifestyle choice for Sarah Lewsey, 38, who had been a friend of Ms Pushkar's since 2005. She said the experience had put her off learning to drive.

"The U-turns scare me and last night I told my husband 'this is why I don't want to learn to drive'," she said. "I was going to learn but now I don't know. They are just driving crazy on that road and there are two U-turns when you're coming into a city, which are very dangerous. I don't know why they don't just close it completely."

Ms Pushkar's friends remember her as a cheerful and optimistic woman. "I can compare Dasha with the sun," said Ms Bezverkha. "She was always smiling, always very positive. Dasha never said anything bad about anybody. She was ready to help anybody, in any situation, at any time."

azacharias@thenational.ae