x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Lack of food and nicotine 'leads to accidents'

Police urge motorists to avoid Dubai's gridlocked roads during Ramadan rush hours.

Car traffic at 15th street and Airport Road.
Car traffic at 15th street and Airport Road.

Police are urging motorists to avoid Dubai's gridlocked roads during Ramadan rush hours after a surge in accidents and road-rage incidents blamed on drivers driven to distraction by hunger, thirst and, in many cases, a craving for nicotine. "As people get caught in the rush to make it home from work at the end of the work day they can get irritable, quick-tempered, agitated and some would see it as an insult if someone attempts to cut in," said Col Saif Muhair al Mazrouei, the acting director of the Dubai Police Traffic Department.

Smokers are particularly prone to losing their composure, he said. The increase in accidents was "mainly because people are in a rush to get home after work; their mission is to get back home to eat and so this really affects the behaviour of drivers on the road, which results in accidents. "Fasting means that you cannot consume any calories, no food, no water or cigarettes, and hunger can have big effects on people, causing them to get enraged and impatient - especially smokers, who can suffer from lack of nicotine. Therefore, if someone attempts to cut them in while driving that may not be welcomed."

In the 18 days since Ramadan began, nine people have died on the emirate's roads - seven in Deira and two in Bur Dubai. The most recent death happened in Deira on Saturday, when a lorry driver lost his life after his vehicle collided with another lorry on Dubai Road, near Al Awir roundabout. Last Sunday, 17 people sustained moderate or serious injuries in five separate accidents in Dubai, including two cases in which pedestrians were run over. Police said all the accidents were a result of drivers speeding, running red lights or losing control of their vehicles; speeding has been the predominant cause of accidents throughout the month.

It has been a similar story in Abu Dhabi, where 198 people have been hurt on the roads since the beginning of the month, including three deaths and 23 severe injuries, according to police. Police in Abu Dhabi, however, said the number of deaths during Ramadan so far had dropped compared with last year when 12 deaths had occurred in the same period. The main cause of the accidents this month has been drivers jumping red lights, said police.

A spokesman for Saaed, the private company newly hired by the emirate to deal with minor accidents, said the number of accidents had increased by more than 30 per cent during the holy month and in the past three days alone it had dealt with more than 300 incidents. Most, said Rashid Ali, happened during the morning rush hour, between 8am and 10am. One reason is that there are often more cars on the road at certain times of day during Ramadan.

In Dubai, police estimate that a minor accident takes place every two or three minutes; these, in turn, help to make matters even worse, said Col Mazrouei, as they block roads unnecessarily, frequently causing thousands of drivers to be stuck for hours in traffic jams. "I urge people who get involved in minor accidents to drive their cars to the side of the road to free access to others or to drive to the nearest police station," he said. "An accident report will be issued to them there within minutes."

He also pleaded with drivers to stay off the roads during Ramadan rush hours unless their journey was absolutely necessary; the key times to avoid, he said, were between 9am and 10am, 2pm and 3pm, and 5pm and 6pm. "The traffic can be eased with the help of people," he said. If those who had no urgent need to travel during the day refrained from driving, "then that will free up the roads for others who are getting home from work or those in an emergency situation and need to get to the hospital, for example".

The situation during Ramadan is being exacerbated because of the extensive construction and roadworks taking place in the city. "You can see there are many roadworks in Dubai," said Col Mazrouei, "so much construction, new roads being built, new intersections and new bridges being put up, which will continue for years to come, and all this plays a part in the traffic problems in the city." Despite all the mitigating circumstances, Col Mazrouei warned drivers not to expect leniency if they broke traffic regulations.

"We get people who would ask police to let them off because it's Ramadan but there will be no compromise on that," he said. "If someone commits a violation then they will have to suffer the consequences as people's lives cannot be put at risk." rabubaker@thenational.ae hdajani@thenational.ae