x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Learner drivers banished from city

Safety drive follows revelation that number of cars on the capital's highways has risen by nearly 50 per cent in three years.

ABU DHABI // Police are to ban learner drivers from the city's busy central roads in an effort to reduce accidents. Officers announced the move yesterday as it was revealed that the number of cars on the capital's highways had increased by almost 50 per cent in the past three years.

Training of learner drivers will instead be restricted to roads outside Abu Dhabi and Al Ain's city limits, according to a statement from the police's licensing and traffic department, and be moved to Musaffah, Mohammed bin Zayed City, Khalifa City A, Bani Yas, Shahama, and the emirate's external highways. Such areas would provide a more suitable environment for driver training, particularly on high-speed roads, said Col Hamad Adil al Shamsi, head of Abu Dhabi's traffic and patrols department.

He said that at present learner drivers could be distracted by high volumes of traffic within major cities, specifically during peak hours. "The whole objective of this new rule is so drivers can learn in more open spaces, and at a slower pace, to reduce traffic accidents," Col al Shamsi said. "They will focus on learning rather than on the traffic around them." Asked whether learners would be missing out on the experience of driving in the city, Col al Shamsi argued: "No, there are still the same conditions in the new areas as in the cities. The same rules apply all over, but the traffic is just more slow. We think this is going to reduce accidents."

The number of vehicles on the emirate's roads increased by 49 per cent, to 583,015 from 392,546, between 2006 and 2008, according to the department. The number of licences issued to motorists increased by 16 per cent during the same period, to 676,660 in 2008 from 581,179 in 2006. Lt Col Mohammed Mayouf al Katbi, director of the vehicle and licensing department, said in a statement that the increase in traffic was due to a rise in population, as well as an increase in the number of construction companies that had swollen demand for vehicles and licences.

The rule change for learner drivers was part of a plan to improve training and road safety, he said, as he reported that last year there were 157 deaths and 143 serious injuries caused by accidents on the emirate's external highways. He called on the driving schools to abide by the new regulations for the sake of improving safety. Lt Col al Katbi also stressed the importance of the various driving school trainers and examiners using the same standards.

He said his department, in co-operation with the Emirates Driving School, had organised a driving course for trainers and licence examiners that would help to ensure their skills were up to date. Other steps being taken by the department to improve driver training included ensuring that all driving schools used the same white and orange colour scheme. Police had also put in place a rule which bans training vehicles that are more than five years old.

mchung@thenational.ae