x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Study seeks road carnage answer

The most comprehensive study of road collisions ever conducted will identify just why so many people die on our roads.

ABU DHABI // The most comprehensive study of road collisions ever conducted will identify just why so many people die on our roads. Road injuries are the second-leading cause of death in the country, behind only cardiovascular disease. Road safety researchers have long decried a lack of comprehensive data pertaining to traffic collisions that could help provide solutions as to how to reduce the death rate.

However, a gathering of road safety professionals were given an early glimpse yesterday of what is expected to be the most comprehensive study of road collisions ever conducted in the UAE. Among the preliminary results of the analysis of traffic collisions causing death and serious injury in Abu Dhabi is the revelation that an alarming number of people are dying because they are not wearing a seat belt.

A failure to buckle up was a leading factor contributing to the death or injury of drivers and passengers in the investigation of 145 crashes selected for analysis between April 2008 and April 2009. Of 44 people who died in a sample group, only 34 per cent had been wearing a belt. Researchers did not reveal how many such accidents there were in the sample period, however there were 454 road fatalities in Abu Dhabi last year.

The preliminary results, a three-year in-depth investigation by Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) and the UAE University in Al Ain, compiled with the help of the emirate's traffic police, were presented at the Road Safety on Four Continents conference at the Yas Hotel. The study, which by 2011 will analyse 600 accidents, randomly selected, will help officials understand the root causes of injuries.

Details on the severity of impact, vehicle damage, witness testimonials, medical records and patient accounts are being collated. The study will also evaluate the efficiency of emergency medical services. "This will help you find out what the underlying causes of crashes are," said Simon Labbett, the regional director of the UK-based Transport Research Laboratory. While the results so far - which show more cases of drivers at fault than poor road or vehicle conditions ? did not contain any startling revelations, they were important because they "quantify" the problems, Mr Labbett said.

"We all see things aren't quite right, but you need to be able to quantify the levels, and we can, and say, 'Do those driver behaviours lead to crashes?'," he said. "You only get that kind of information when you have good quality data. "The extra level of investigation is very helpful in understanding not just the primary cause, but also the underlying factors that go to cause these crashes because crashes are multifactor events."

The project has a budget of Dh3.6 million (US$1m). Crashes in which victims would not consent to be interviewed are not included. Neither are crashes in which there were no deaths or serious injuries. The preliminary findings rank the failure to wear a seat belt the second-leading human factor contributing to serious crashes after "other human factors". There were 69 cases in which people were not wearing a belt, 67 cases in which excessive speed was a factor and 60 cases in which driving was classified as reckless.

Human error was overwhelmingly to blame over vehicle or road and environment factors. There were 548 human factors - such as fatigue or inexperience - compared with 140 road and environment-related factors and 50 vehicle-related factors. The conference was told that the country needed a more comprehensive accident database. The National Transport Authority said such a database was in its plans. mchung@thenational.ae