x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Police helpers to expand patrols (and fees)

The private company contracted to handle minor road collisions in the emirate will begin operating inside the island, taking over injury-free accidents from Abu Dhabi Police.

The Saaed patrol officer Ahmed Mubarak takes driver details at the scene of a car accident in Musaffah.
The Saaed patrol officer Ahmed Mubarak takes driver details at the scene of a car accident in Musaffah.

ABU DHABI // The private company contracted to handle minor road collisions in the emirate will begin operating inside the island on April 15, taking over injury-free accidents from Abu Dhabi Police. "We are saving time for our police patrols to control the road," said Major Hussain al Harthei, head of traffic engineering and road safety for the traffic and patrols department. "Now we can focus on our main core business, to patrol, to help people in traffic jams, to help people if they are seriously injured, to look into any other crimes."

Saaed, employed by the police, has been operating in the emirate since the summer, when it ran a trial in the suburb of Musaffah. It has expanded to other parts of the emirate, including Baniyas, Shahama, Al Rahba and Al Ain, and has responded to more than 30,000 accidents since August, said Ibrhaim Ramel, the president of Saaed. Saaed intends to expand its serivce to Al Gharbia next month, though no date has been set.

With the addition of 15 motorcycles and 12 cars to patrol Abu Dhabi Island, the company now has 60 patrols, Mr Ramel said. Police aim to reduce traffic accidents by four per cent each year over five years. In October, Saaed's officers were given the power to levy service fees of Dh500 (US$136) against drivers found to be at fault in a collision, a decision that does not sit well with some residents."The problem is that not all drivers have big salaries," said Jalil Khan, a delivery driver for Cosi restaurant. "Being charged Dh500, this is not good for company drivers."

Major al Harthei, who is also chairman of the board of Saaed, said the fees would go towards covering the company's operational costs. The fees are not charged in cases where no driver is determined to have been at fault, such as when a car is struck in a car park while its driver is absent and the other motorist leaves. Mr Ramel said the purpose of the fee was to make drivers recognise the cost of a minor accident. The operational costs were greater than the money collected from at-fault drivers, he said.

Saaed officers have been assigned to 17 parts of the island, each going through an orientation programme in his specific area. They have also been riding with Abu Dhabi Police as they respond to minor accidents. They will start carrying the police in their own vehicles before completely taking over the duties. The phase-in of Saaed's officers will allow motorists to become familiar with Saaed's patrol cars and staff, Mr Ramel said.

The company cites an average response time of 15 minutes, with an additional 15 minutes to complete an accident report. Reports are taken electronically, with Saaed's officers using hand-held electronic devices to draw up diagrams of crash scenes. By sending the electronic reports directly to insurance companies, Saaed can streamline the reporting process for motorists. The hiring of Saaed, which is 50 per cent owned by the Ministry of Interior, marked the first time police duties had been outsourced to a private firm.

mchung@thenational.ae