x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Intensified campaign on bad driving aims to cut death rate to zero

Police hope to create a road safety culture that will result in no people being killed on Dubai's roads at all by 2020.

Mangled remains of a car involved in an accident on Jebel Ali-Lahbab road that claimed two lives. The Dubai Police traffic department is planning to reduce the road death rate with an intensified awareness campaign.
Mangled remains of a car involved in an accident on Jebel Ali-Lahbab road that claimed two lives. The Dubai Police traffic department is planning to reduce the road death rate with an intensified awareness campaign.

DUBAI // Dubai Police are seeking to create a road safety culture through a clampdown on bad drivers as they aim for a statistical zero death rate per 100,000 inhabitants on the emirate's roads by 2020.

The traffic department is seeking a level between 11.8 and 12.5 road deaths per 100,000 by the end of this year, against 12.9 last year. The rate was 17.8 in 2008. The zero-deaths programme follows similar efforts in nations such as Sweden, which has one of the world's lowest rates. The new strategy will be based on intensified campaigns to curb the main infringements which cause accidents. Police studies show that bad driving habits cause about 90 per cent of accidents.

Reckless driving, jumping red lights, speeding, aggressive driving and drunk driving are examples of crimes that will be monitored by specialised teams, under the new plan. "Road safety is our ultimate priority in the next 10 years," said Lt Gen Dahi Tamim, the Dubai Police chief. "Therefore, we have outlined four main elements we have to work on to achieve our goal of a zero death rate. I know that it is a very low rate but we are determined to achieve our goal.

"We need to develop programmes which will limit accidents and create a culture which makes road safety everybody's responsibility." Teams will also be created to monitor lorry drivers and those who tamper with number plates to avoid fines. The strategy will include an intensified awareness campaign to help motorists understand that road safety is everybody's responsibility. "I want to develop a new concept of driving among people and create self monitoring, as this will be a most important component in reducing road fatalities," said Gen Tamim.

Lectures to schoolchildren, parents and the public as well as animated films will also be among the tools used. There will also be a review of existing legislation and the development of new traffic laws. Road safety experts yesterday applauded the Government's target but noted it would be extremely difficult to achieve the goal. While there are traditional measures authorities can take to bring rates down, such as identifying and improving crash black spots, increased enforcement and education, there comes a point where "no matter what you do, you can't go any further", said Jamie Castle, a senior consultant with the Transport Research Laboratory's regional branch.

"There will always be a situation where a crash occurs because somebody makes a mistake," he said. "But to get down to single figures you need to tailor an environment where, when an accident does occur, it does not result in a fatality." Sweden is making its way toward that goal through its "vision zero" policy, which includes reducing speed limits in residential areas to minimise the effects of collisions.

It also worked to physically separate motorists on higher-speed roads and to raise standards in vehicle safety. Sweden had a death rate of five road deaths per 100,000 people in 2008, according to the World Health Organisation. The chief challenge for UAE authorities in changing the driving culture is the country's constantly shifting populace, said John Patrick Hayes, a programme director with Transport Research Laboratory.

"Ultimately it is all about getting a culture of safety and where you have a transient population you're almost starting from scratch each time," he said. "They will come with whatever culture is inherent from their home country." There are about 1.8 million residents in Dubai and the figure is expected to more than double by 2020, according to government statistics. @Email:wissa@thenational.ae mchung@thenational.ae