x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Police urge fog delay for schools

Police recommend late starts for schools and early starts for workers to avoid road tragedies during fog season.

ABU DHABI // Police are recommending late starts for schools and early starts for workers as part of a novel strategy to avoid road tragedies during fog season. Two people were killed and five injured in five accidents on Tuesday night as thick fog descended on the country, marking the start of weather conditions blamed for hundreds of accidents a year. The head of Abu Dhabi traffic police, Col Hamad al Shamsi, told the state news agency WAM that late starts for schools were being urged to allow students to arrive safely, while early starts for workers would minimise traffic.

Police conducted a sweeping reassessment of traffic procedures after four people were killed and more than 350 injured in a 200-car pile-up on the road between the capital and Dubai in thick fog last March. Major Gen Mohammed al Minhali, director general of police operations, said his agency had improved communications with other emergency services after similar accidents. Personnel had also been trained to better handle accidents, and a victim care centre created to support the injured.

Other new measures have included the installation of low-voltage floodlights along Abu Dhabi's motorways, sending motorists text message fog warnings to their mobile phones, and having police escort motorists in fog. Col al Shamsi called on drivers to slow down in fog and to stop only in lanes or areas off the main roads, WAM reported. Police have also asked drivers not to use their high beams in foggy conditions.

Matt Seirfert, one of the drivers involved in the March pile-up, said it was fortunate traffic was light on Wednesday morning or the injury toll could have been worse. Mr Seirfert delayed his trip when he saw the conditions: "I know what happened the last time I drove in conditions like that." The fog was blown into Abu Dhabi from the desert by a south-westerly wind. It blanketed Dubai on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

In the capital, one motorist died and five were injured in separate accidents, while in Dubai an Emirati died when his motorcycle hit a kerb on Al Rabat Road. Also in Dubai, three vehicles collided on Tarif Road, one of which burst into flames, killing one person and injuring two. Two other people were injured and taken to Al Mafraq Hospital when their lorries collided on Trucks Road. In Al Gharbia, police halted all lorry traffic to try to prevent accidents.

Susan Guilford drove from Abu Dhabi to Dubai on Tuesday night and said the fog was the worst she had seen. "It was so bad cars were pulling over at the side of road and there was one accident with three cars and an ambulance, but the visibility was so bad I don't know what happened." Police are concerned that driving on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai motorway will be especially dangerous because construction on the Al Raha Beach development has reduced the three lanes to two.

Contractors are working around the clock to finish the work early next year, before the worst of the fog and rain hits the emirate. Meanwhile, police are focusing on the area with patrols and radars, and have warned motorists to cut their speeds in bad conditions and to keep up with weather forecasts. jhenzell@thenational.ae