Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 30 September 2020

Dedicated lanes could slash emergency response times, experts say

Police in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are devising new ways to help emergency services cut through the country's busy traffic

Dedicated traffic lanes help emergency vehicles to cut through congested roads and respond to vital calls more quickly. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Dedicated traffic lanes help emergency vehicles to cut through congested roads and respond to vital calls more quickly. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Dedicated traffic lanes for emergency vehicles, buses and taxis can boost response times and clear up congested roads by encouraging more people to use public transport, road safety experts said.

Last week, Abu Dhabi Police announced the right hand lane of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street would be reserved for such vehicles from the start of this month.

The road runs down the western side of the island connecting the Corniche with Al Bateen Street.

Anyone caught flouting the rule, which applies in both directions, will be hit with a Dh400 fine.

Emergency service chiefs across the country believe such lanes are badly needed as many drivers fail to make way for police, paramedics and firefighters.

“It's essential to spread a culture of giving way to emergency, police and official convoys to improve response speeds to accidents, so we can get much-needed services to the injured without delay,” Maj Gen Abdullah Ali Al Ghaithi, acting assistant police chief for operations at Dubai Police, told The National in October.

As part of efforts to reach people in emergency situations more swiftly, motorists in Dubai now receive a warning message on their car radio to alert them of oncoming emergency vehicles.

It was announced in October that the transmitter, which is intended to help emergency responders cut through traffic quickly and safely, would be fitted across a number of Dubai ambulance vehicles.

More than 100 drivers were fined in the first 10 months of the year for blocking emergency vehicles on Dubai's roads.

Officers warned lives could be lost if motorists ignore ambulances or police rushing to or from the scene of accidents.

“A delay in getting to [accident] victims may result in deaths,” said Brig Saif Al Mazroui, head of Dubai's traffic police at the time.

Saleh Jafar, president of Gulf for YASA road safety, said educating drivers on the importance of giving way to emergency vehicles was crucial, but felt most were aware of the need to offer their support.

Police and paramedics are often held up by motorists, emergency service chiefs say. Sammy Dallal / The National
Police and paramedics are often held up by motorists, emergency service chiefs say. Sammy Dallal / The National

"It is about education. It is a matter of courtesy. But I don’t think it’s a big problem. Most motorists do make a path for emergency service vehicles."

Allowing buses to use a dedicated lane, and therefore skip traffic they would otherwise have become stuck in, would also motivate more people to leave their cars at home.

“If a bus gets stuck in traffic, it means they will be delayed," said Salaheddine Bendak​, an associate professor at the College of Engineering at Sharjah University.

“So if there is a dedicated lane for buses and other special vehicles, it means the service offered by buses and taxis will be much faster and more people will use them.”

Adding other options, like metro and trains would further help reduce congestion.

However Mr Bendak warned it could potentially also make traffic worse if it forces commuters to use fewer lanes.

A delay in getting to [accident] victims may result in deaths

Brig Saif Al Mazroui, head of Dubai's traffic police

“Preferably this dedicated lane wouldn’t be deducted from existing lanes,” he said.

“But sometimes this is not possible.”

Dedicated lanes are common practice in many countries and have been in operation in Dubai for almost a decade.

Dubai has around seven kilometres of bus and taxi priority lanes in total, having introduced six kilometres of dedicated bus lanes in the city in 2010 on sections of Al Mankhool Street, Al Khaleej Street, Khalid Bin Al Waleed Street and Al Ghubaiba Street. In 2011, the project expanded to cover a section of Naif Street and parts of Ittihad Street.

Sharjah also has a network of priority lanes.

Abu Dhabi Police, RTA and Department of Transport were contacted for comment.

Updated: December 8, 2019 04:33 PM

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