x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

New road safety website urges politeness on UAE roads

An encounter with a dangerous and inconsiderate driver 13 years ago pushed Thomas Edelmman to devote more time to road safety. He is the founder of the website Road Safety UAE which was launched this month.

Thomas Edelmann, founder of the website Road Safety UAE, which features more than 30 road safety tips relevant to the UAE. Sarah Dea / The National
Thomas Edelmann, founder of the website Road Safety UAE, which features more than 30 road safety tips relevant to the UAE. Sarah Dea / The National

ABU DHABI // An encounter with a dangerous and inconsiderate driver 13 years ago pushed Thomas Edelmann to devote more time to road safety.

“We were sitting in our taxi and there was a big 4x4 overtaking us and travelling at an incredible speed,” said the Austrian founder of the Road Safety UAE website.

“This was basically one of the very first impressions I got when I first arrived in Dubai.”

He prepared a concept paper in August and met with a web developer. The website went live at the start of last month and was officially launched this month after endorsement from the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai.

“The UAE won the Expo 2020 and has high ambitions on the global stage,” Mr Edelmann said. “We are inviting the world into the UAE. However, our roads are very dangerous. It is a huge reputation risk for the UAE.”

BMW Middle East, Michelin, Daman National Health Insurance, Gargash Mercedes Benz, Emarat Petroleum and Pirelli support the initiative.

The site has more than 30 road safety tips that are relevant to the UAE, including road etiquette and politeness, speeding, how to change lanes properly, tyre safety, proper use of indicators and pedestrian safety.

“It is a really good start towards trying to improve road safety in the UAE,” said Rebecca Lee, communications and brand image director at Michelin, which sponsors the site’s tyre maintenance page.

Road etiquette and politeness is one of Mr Edelmann’s “hero” topics.

“If drivers will be more polite, a lot of shortcomings on the road will actually go away. You treat other people how you would like to be treated.”

He said that every week he would see parents neglect to make their children wear seat belts, or not fastening infants into baby seats.

“It’s shocking,” said the marketing and communications professional.

BMW has focused on promoting the importance of buckling up in the Middle East since 2010.

“We are delighted to see more promotion by independent companies to help make the country reach its aim of zero deaths by 2020 and encourage safer driving,” said Leanne Blanckenberg, corporate communications manager at BMW Group Middle East.

Mr Edelmann, who lives in the Meadows, recently saw a father teaching his five-year-old son to drive in the residential area.

“The boy was sitting on his father’s lap,” he said. “If you love your kid, buckle them up and keep them safe.”

Mr Edelmann believes that in the UAE, people are driving against each other and not with each other.

“It’s like, ‘I want to be faster than you, I want to be in front of you, I want to be a minute or a second ahead of you’,” he said.

Drivers must be taught to respect pedestrians and cyclists who are often treated as “second-class citizens” on the road.

“Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers must all respect each other,” Mr Edelmann said. “The moment you leave your car, you’re also a pedestrian.”

Safety experts have welcomed the initiative but said it was important to engage lawmakers for any change to happen.

“Anything to be done to highlight road safety is a positive step,” said Simon Labbett, regional director of Transport Research Laboratory Limited, which has assisted in developing Abu Dhabi’s road-safety strategy.

“It is good to get people talking about road safety. But it is critical to win the hearts and minds of the Emirati people to enable change and development to deliver road safety.

“To promote sustainable changes, we need government departments and leaders of the country to enable the changes.”

Dr Abdulilah Zineddin, a road safety specialist in Abu Dhabi, said safety should also be discussed at the top levels of government.

He said it would be good to hear senior officials “talking about road safety and encouraging drivers to slow down”.

rruiz@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting from Preeti Kannan