x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Theyab Awana's relative hopes death will highlight danger

The man who placed the lifeless body of the Baniyas football star in an ambulance last week has called on young people in the UAE to be more vigilant while driving.

Nasser Ahmed Al Musabi was one of the first to arrive at the scene of Theyab Awana's crash. Since that night, he checks his phone only after reaching his destination.
Nasser Ahmed Al Musabi was one of the first to arrive at the scene of Theyab Awana's crash. Since that night, he checks his phone only after reaching his destination.

ABU DHABI // The man who placed the lifeless body of the Baniyas football star Theyab Awana in an ambulance last week has called on all young people to be more vigilant while driving.

Nasser Ahmed Al Musabi, 33, a relative and former Baniyas player, was among the first to arrive at the scene of the crash.

"We didn't believe it at first," said Mr Al Musabi, who was relaxing with fellow players from other clubs when he heard the news. "We first thought it was one of these rumours."

After confirming it was true, he raced to the crash site. "I picked up Theyab's body and we went into the ambulance and I saw his brother, Fawaz, who was passed out."

"I took him to the hospital which was crowded by people who wanted to offer their condolences," said Mr Al Musabi, whose two brothers Saleh and Sultan played alongside Awana.

"I want all young people to be more aware because it's only one second that leads to a disaster."

Since Awana's death, Mr Al Musabi has kept his mobile phone in his pocket while driving, and only checks it after he has reached his destination.

"His death is a lesson to all of us and I hope we don't hear that anyone else has died from a car crash because of texting," he said.

According to the Al Ain Traffic Department, 14 per cent of fatalities in traffic accidents over the past 10 months were the result of using mobile phones while driving.

Police in the capital say they will soon launch a campaign to make drivers more aware of existing laws and to clamp down on offenders.

According to Article 8 of UAE Traffic Law, those who drive in a way that poses a danger to others will be fined Dh1,000, given 12 black points, and have their cars confiscated for 30 days.

Article 135 says those who use any hand-held device will be fined Dh200 and given four black points.

The head of Dubai Traffic Police, Brigadier Mohammed Saif Al Zafin, said his department issues 50,000 to 60,000 fines a year for texting while driving.

"Texting while driving poses a danger because it distracts you," he said.

Commenting on the death of Theyab Awana, he said: "The accident will definitely have an effect on some, but teenagers don't listen because they don't think something bad will happen to them."

Young Emiratis are divided in their reaction to Awana's death.

AB, a 26-year-old Emirati, said she would continue to text while driving - and doubts Awana was doing so when he crashed.

AB said the much-publicised incident had not stopped her from texting while driving, though she was trying to stop gradually.

"I haven't seen any proof that he died because he was texting. It was brought up as an excuse for the campaign," she said. "What will stop me from texting is not a fine, but real consequences. The fines may affect my salary, but it's not going to stop me from texting."

Still, at least two young Emiratis have given their BlackBerry habits a makeover since hearing about the crash.

"Theyab's death was a wake up call," said Muna, 23. "Life is too short to be manipulated by a black gadget."

Ms Muna and her friends have started a BlackBerry Messenger campaign, sending pictures along with the slogan "it can wait".

Maryam Hassan, 24, used her BlackBerry non-stop before Awana's accident changed her thinking.

"I can't believe that I actually had to wait for someone's death to make headlines before I realised how hazardous it was," she said. Ms Hassan said she now uses her device only while stopped at a red light to respond to important calls.

aalhaddad@thenational.ae