Road safety experts applaud anti-tailgating device
ABU DHABI // Road safety experts have welcomed a move to install a device in Dubai taxis, which will raise awareness on tailgating and encourage drivers to slow down.
But a sustained campaign coupled with effective enforcement was needed to change driver behaviour, they said.
Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has created the device, called Back off Radio, which alerts drivers when they are travelling too close to the car ahead.
“The RTA radio initiative is an interesting development to raise awareness,” said Simon Labbett, the regional director of Transport Research Laboratory.
“However, to be effective and achieve sustained change in driver behaviour, tailgating will require comprehensive educational messages and campaigns, fully supported by a targeted and effective enforcement programme.”
With the device installed, if the taxi enters the safety zone of the vehicle in front a warning message will be broadcast from a speaker inside the cab.
A similar warning will be made when a vehicle comes too close to the rear of the taxi from behind comes too close.
Mr Labbett said tailgating was probably the “biggest road safety challenge in the UAE that has yet to be fully researched and treated”.
“It is common on our roads to see drivers travelling at 120kph at less than half a car length from the vehicle in front. That is about 2.5 metres,” he said. “It is mentally and physically impossible for any human to react in this distance at such speeds.”
Awareness about the adverse effects of tailgating was fairly negligible among most drivers, said Dr Salaheddine Bendak, an associate professor at the department of industrial engineering at University of Sharjah.
“Tailgating is estimated to be responsible for more than 5 per cent of accidents in most Middle East countries,” he said.
“There is a need to educate drivers on the risks involved with tailgating using all possible means – radio messages, TV ads, newspaper ads and social media messages.”
In the first quarter of this year tailgating accounted for the third-highest number of accidents in the UAE at 151.
A total of 245 accidents were blamed on sudden lane changes, and 156 on driver error, according to the Ministry of Interior.
Drivers who travel too closely to a vehicle in front were risking lives, Mr Labbett said.
“The relative speed between two vehicles is similar and to inexperienced drivers, it might appear safe. The reality is different,” he said.
“At 120kph a vehicle will cover 33 metres every second. Typically, human reaction time to an unexpected event is about one to 1.5 seconds.”
Taxi companies in Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates should also install the device on their fleets to curb tailgating, Dr Bendak said, who has published scientific and research papers on tyre safety, seat-belt use and child restraints.
The tailgate sensors are aimed at protecting the lives of taxi drivers, passengers and other motorists. Once a taxi reaches a speed of 60 kph, sensors fitted to the front and rear of the car are activated, said Yousif Al Ali, the chief executive of the RTA’s Public Transport Agency.
“Tailgating is risky behaviour that is widespread across all emirates and the whole Middle East,” Mr Bendak said.
“Any effort to minimise the loss of lives due to traffic accidents is needed and appreciated.”
Updated: April 28, 2015 04:00 AM