x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

A high-speed chase towards safety

A red racing car zips along the Corniche with a police helicopter and patrol cars in hot pursuit as part of a road safety campaign.

ABU DHABI // A red racing car zipped along the Corniche yesterday with a police helicopter, patrol cars and motorcycles in hot pursuit, all in the name of road safety. The traffic-stopping event was staged by Abu Dhabi Police, who were filming a commercial that will be the centrepiece of a major road safety campaign ahead of the capital's hosting its first Formula One Grand Prix on November 1. With excess speed a leading cause of crashes, police hope to take advantage of the F1 event, featuring the fastest of cars, to remind residents and visitors that racing should be reserved for the race track.

"A lot of people haven't been to any F1 event before," said Lt Majid al Marzouqi of the Abu Dhabi Police. "When they go and check out the race and see how fast these cars are, I think they are going to leave the event with a huge impression of speed. The message we are trying to send here is that speed kills; it doesn't thrill." In addition to the commercial, which will continue to be filmed over the next couple of days, police have completed a commercial about seat belt use, featuring 16 high-performance cars.

The advertisements will appear on television by mid-October and also be posted on YouTube. Plans are for them to have a wide distribution, not only in the UAE but throughout the region, a police spokesman said. The TV campaign will be accompanied by radio spots and billboards, and police intend for their commercial to be broadcast on a large screen at Yas Island over the race weekend. They are also setting up a dedicated website for the F1 event to provide travel updates and advice on routes. Finally, a customised F1 car is being built for police. It will be on display on the Grand Prix weekend and then be used around the capital to spread the safety message.

"It is a huge marketing and awareness campaign," Lt al Marzouqi said. "It is one of the biggest campaigns organised by Abu Dhabi Police." The filming was already grabbing the attention of the public yesterday, as passers-by paused at the side of the Corniche under a blistering afternoon sun to snap pictures on their mobile phones of the single-seat, open-wheel racing car. Behind the wheel was the racing instructor Andy Boux, driving at speeds up to 240 kph.

"It is great because everyone is watching it," said Manal Farah, from the Palestinian territories, after snapping a photo from the pavement. "I stopped my car and came here to see what was going on." During filming, the car, which normally burns rubber around the Dubai Autodrome, cruised at a more suburban pace, with film crews in SUVs recording as a patrol car and motorcycles accompanied it. The stretch of road was closed when filming was taking place, but there were a couple of instances when the car went cruising among regular commuters heading in the direction of Marina Mall.

Mr Boux, an instructor at Dubai Autodrome, said he expected the flashy commercial to get the message across. "It is quite a fun commercial actually," he said. "I've never heard of a police department doing something like this. "It will get people watching, and the main thing, hopefully, it will get people talking about it, saying, 'Oh I saw a Formula car on the streets today; I wonder what that was for'."

On top of delivering a road-safety message, said John Sammon, the commercial's director, the ad was intended to enhance the brand of Abu Dhabi Police and show them as part of the community. The police in the film are more of an escort than a chasing pack, Mr Sammon said. "It is about pageant and spectacle and showing how the Abu Dhabi Police are a part of that and, at the same time, reminding people that if you are going to be driving quickly, you should be in a safe environment," he said.

The seat belt commercial, shot over seven days at locations including the Emirates Palace hotel and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, and featuring an Aston Martin, Bentley and Porsche, had a more direct message, said Lt al Marzouqi. "Even if you are working in F1, it is beautiful, but you need a seat belt to be safe," he said. mchung@thenational.ae