'Road safety issues need to be translated and trickled down to the public through the media,' said Mr Al Otaiba, editor-in-chief of The National.
Media can help spread the message of road safety
The media could play a huge role in helping to promote a message of road safety to the public, said Mohammed Al Otaiba, editor-in-chief of The National.
“Road safety issues need to be translated and trickled down to the public through the media,” Mr Al Otaiba told the first International Road Traffic Accident Conference in Abu Dhabi, held as part of Gulf Traffic Week.
“At The National we feel we have a responsibility to drive those messages through both print and digital platforms, making sure we reach our readers through their preferred media.”
The National’s Road To Safety campaign was launched in 2009 after the deaths of three Emirati sisters.
“Sheikha Al Mansouri, 4, her two sisters, 6 and 7, and their nanny, 24, were killed while crossing Airport Road,” said Mr Al Otaiba, adding that the incident sparked nationwide anger and grief.
He said that there was a comprehensive effort across the UAE to help raise awareness on road safety issues.
“Our campaign’s focus centres on pushing for improved infrastructure, road design, raising safety standards, proper enforcement, proper traffic control, incident response and better pedestrian management,” said Mr Al Otaiba.
“Since then there have been awareness campaigns, rigorous law enforcement and continuous development of pedestrian crossings – tunnels and footbridges – including one where the 2009 incident happened.”
He said there had been a decrease in pedestrian deaths.
“Recent figures show that 1,209 pedestrians died on the roads nationwide last year compared with 1,328 in 2011. Although they are unfortunate numbers, it still shows some improvement.”
Mr Al Otaiba said it was important to combine all efforts through mass media and through working closely with relevant authorities to deliver the right messages.
He added that by doing so, the behaviour of people – both drivers and pedestrians – would change and as a result make the UAE’s roads safer.
The National engages closely with its readers, Mr Al Otaiba said, something that helped the paper’s coverage of traffic stories.
“Our participation in this conference demonstrates how important the issue of road safety is to us, and this comes from a belief of doing something that could bring about change.”
He added the importance of publishing the positive stories on road safety.
“It tells us that there are solutions and ideas out there; that we can learn from each other’s experiences,” said Mr Al Otaiba.