x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Top prosecutor calls for tougher UAE laws to punish killer drivers

Existing laws do not allow judges to impose sentences that match the severity of many road traffic offences, top legal official says

The laws governing UAE roads are not comprehensive or strict enough to effectively punish bad driving, Salah Bu Farousha, head of Dubai Traffic Public Prosecution, has said. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
The laws governing UAE roads are not comprehensive or strict enough to effectively punish bad driving, Salah Bu Farousha, head of Dubai Traffic Public Prosecution, has said. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // Dubai’s top traffic prosecutor called yesterday for tough new laws to punish bad drivers.

Existing laws do not allow judges to impose sentences that match the severity of the crime, said Salah Bu Farousha, head of Dubai Traffic Public Prosecution.

“For example, you have a driver who is speeding, who refuses to be stopped by the police so he tries to evade them. In the process he skips a red light, causes someone else to have an accident and becomes a danger to the public.

“This person, if he goes to court with these violations, will be fined just Dh2,000. He will pay the fine and leave. Have I, as a public servant, achieved anything? Was I able to improve public safety? No.”

Mr Bu Farousha described the law as vague. He told a road safety conference in Dubai: “We should implement clear laws that the public can understand. We need to have clearer, more complete traffic legislation. It needs to be stricter and comprehensive.”

The prosecutor gave the comparative example of legal outcomes in three hypothetical fatal crashes: one involving a labour bus, another an intoxicated driver and another a reckless youth.

“All three of these cases will result in a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Here the sentence does not reflect the conditions that led to the crash, only that it resulted in a death.

“We also need more transparency. The statistic are not clear and not readily available,” he said.

Mr Bu Farousha said existing law identified 147 types of traffic offence, with a maximum penalty of a Dh3,000 fine and impounding the vehicle for seven to 60 days.

Ibrahim Yousif Ramel, chief executive of Saaed, the organisation that deals with non-fatal traffic accidents in Abu Dhabi, said there was room for improvement.

“Look at heavy vehicles for example: they pose some of the greatest risks on our roads,” he said. “Yet we have no laws looking at what is loaded in these – we only have some laws on whether items are falling out or leaking.

“As a precaution in Abu Dhabi, trucks are not permitted in Al Salam tunnel, because they could be carrying flammable or hazardous materials which can be a disaster in case of an accident.”

Ali Al Kamali, managing director of Datamatix, the organiser of the conference, said the law needed to keep pace with a variety of changes that affected road safety. “The technologies are different, the vehicles are different, people’s mentalities and behaviours are different. We need to update our laws to reflect that.”

Figures presented at the conference, which ended yesterday, suggest road accidents are now the second most common cause of death in the world.

Although Dubai has recorded a significant reduction in road deaths in the past four years, there has been a sharp rise this year.

Between January and March there were 724 accidents with 48 deaths, compared with 33 deaths in 2011 and 27 in 2012.

Mr Ramel praised the work being done to improve safety on Abu Dhabi roads.

“In 2009 we had 471 deaths on the roads in Abu Dhabi, last year we had 242,” he said. “The UAE plans to have zero deaths on the roads per 100,000 people by 2020. So it was great to see that we were able to cut the figure by 50 per cent in just three years.”

There were 692 accidents involving drivers aged 25 and under in Dubai in 2011, including 39 in which the driver was under 18.

“Our figures show that almost all crashes involving Emiratis fall into the severe category. The number of minor collisions that have Emirati drivers is very small,” Mr Ramel said.

malkhan@thenational.ae