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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

One in two Emirati drivers shun seat belts, poll finds

The poll of more than 1,000 UAE drivers also showed that of those that do not buckle up, 55 per cent felt “safe enough without a seat belt” and 25 per cent say it is not needed on short trips.
Eleven per cent of passengers said they buckle up when travelling in the back seat of a taxi or a friend’s car. Pawan Singh / The National
Eleven per cent of passengers said they buckle up when travelling in the back seat of a taxi or a friend’s car. Pawan Singh / The National

ABU DHABI // Half of Emirati drivers and more than a third of young motorists do not wear seat belts when behind the wheel, a major study has suggested.

The poll of more than 1,000 UAE drivers also shows that of those who do not buckle up, 55 per cent feel “safe enough without a seat belt” and a quarter say it is not needed on short trips.

Eleven per cent consider seat belts “inconvenient to wear”, while 10 per cent say the restraints wrinkle their clothes.

Experts say strict enforcement of new seat belt laws and increased public awareness are needed to show that these attitudes are putting drivers in dire risk.

RoadSafetyUAE and QIC Insured, which jointly commissioned the study, said “alarmingly low” awareness of road safety continues to prevail at a time when road deaths are on the rise.

Another finding the survey authors said was “truly alarming” is that only 11 per cent of passengers say they buckle up when travelling in the back seat of a taxi or car.

“With the new law making it compulsory for back-seat passengers to buckle up, specific efforts are needed to educate the UAE on the seat belt as the most important safety device in a vehicle, to prevent injuries and fatalities in the event of a crash,” said Thomas Edelmann, founder of RoadSafetyUAE.

“That will require a massive effort by all stakeholders directed towards back-seat passengers – from parents with kids in the car to the responsible motorists who must make sure everyone in their vehicle wears seat belts.

Last week, police announced laws that will require all passengers to be buckled up at all times. The driver will be responsible for all passengers in the vehicle and faces a Dh400 fine and four black points on their licence if they are caught without seat belts.

The laws come into effect in three months.

“Seat belts save lives in the range of 40 to 60 per cent, and in the case of children, this goes up to 80 per cent,” said Mr Edelmann.

“There is no reason not to wear seat belts in our cars. Each and every one has to wear seat belts at all times.”

Overall, 78 per cent of those polled say they always wear their seat belts.

The figure for Arab expatriates is 83 per cent, Asian expats 82 per cent, while 100 per cent of westerners say they buckle up while driving.

Only 38 per cent of Emirati front-seat passengers always wear seat belts, compared with three in five Arab expatriates.

Roshanara Sait, director of Ciel Marketing and Events which organises road safety campaigns, said the findings did not surprise her.

“It points to a lack of education,” she said. “It is plain ignorance in most cases and nothing else.

“What is surprising is that these same people will immediately buckle up on a plane when the chances of a plane crash are much lower than a road crash.

“A simple ‘seat belt convincer’ could change one’s mindset. In universities, we use a ‘seat belt convincer’ and other simulators to demonstrate the importance of a seat belt. The results have been amazing and most students leave convinced.”

The new seat belt law is “a great step forward by the Ministry of Interior to promote safer roads”, Ms Sait said.

Mr Edelmann also welcomed the law.

“But we need to see more creative initiatives carried out by the Government, the media, the education sector and by corporations to effectively increase seat belt use,” he said.

rruiz@thenational.ae