x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Safety campaign in Sharjah as five die on the roads

Traffic awareness campaign launched on the same day it was revealed that five people - including three children - died on the emirate's roads over the weekend.

SHARJAH // Police launched a traffic awareness campaign aimed at reducing pedestrian deaths and accidents in residential areas on the same day it was revealed that five people - including three children - died on the emirate's roads over the weekend.

The campaign will include increased patrols in residential areas and the distribution of brochures and media messages, police said yesterday.

Speeding and crossing roads at non-designated areas were among the major causes of pedestrian accidents to be addressed.

"We want to keep it an open campaign, creating awareness among motorists and other road users on the adherence of traffic rules," said Col Mohammed Eid al Madhloom, the head of the Sharjah police operations department. "The general behaviour on roads has to change to one that is safe and obedient to traffic rules."

About 350 accidents a day are being recorded on the emirate's streets and more than 40 pedestrians have been killed so far this year. A recent Abu Dhabi report revealed that road accidents last year - about one every five minutes - cost Dh5.8 billion.

The campaign also seeks to remind parents not to put their children in the front seats, as well as urging motorists to fasten their seat belts and not talk on mobile phones while driving. Uniformed and plain clothed police will be on the road looking out for offenders.

"We have had a lot of calls from residents complaining about youths driving at high speed and making a lot of noise in their neighbourhoods," Col al Madhloom said. "These violations within residential areas cannot be tolerated." Col al Madhloom also called on motorists to stop blocking ambulances and other emergency vehicles.

He showed video footage of a recent accident in which a 4x4 crashed into an ambulance that was crossing the traffic lights to illustrate his point.

Residents said the emirate's authorities should boost the local infrastructure by increasing the number of pedestrian bridges to help solve the problem. Humaid al Mansouri, the general manager of the Ansar Mall on Al Ittihad Road, agreed that was the best solution.

"Not a single week goes by without hearing police vehicles and ambulances coming to collect a pedestrian accident victim," he said. "People in the neighbourhood are desperate to cross from Al Nahda to Al Mamzar and the Government can help by installing a pedestrian bridge."

Salim Sadik, a resident who used to cross the road from Al Mamzar, said that he realised what a risk he was taking when one of his neighbours died doing so. He said that the problem was that the Al Mamzar side did not have a mall and taking a taxi to the other side was costly as meters start at Dh20 because of a zoning irregularity.

"I now ask for my neighbours to give me a lift whenever they are going to shop themselves," he said. "I believe having a pedestrian bridge would save a lot of lives here."

Col al Madhloom said that a committee formed between the police and the Department of Public Works would study all roads and make recommendations for improvements wherever they are needed.

Drivers and pedestrians were equally to blame for the pedestrian accidents, said Lt Col Ahmed bin Darwish the director of Sharjah patrol unit.

"Some drivers don't respect pedestrian crossings and others notice pedestrians too late as they are either speeding or not paying attention to the road," he said. "But accidents are also caused by pedestrians crossing at undesignated areas or by parents leaving children to cross on their own."

A 13-year-old girl died in an accident around midnight on Saturday in which her family's car collided with a speeding car at the Sheikh Saud bin Saqar roundabout. Two members of her family were seriously injured and rushed to hospital.

In a similar incident, two Emirati men in their early 20s died yesterday morning when their car collided with another vehicle on the Sheikh Humaid Bin Saqar Road.

Three other people were seriously injured in the crash, including the driver of the other vehicle. And on Friday night two sisters, pupils at the Maryam Primary School, suffered fatal injuries in a crash in the Shahba area.

The girls, Fatema and Sheikha Faisal, were in their family vehicle when it collided with another car. Fatema was killed at the scene while Sheikha died yesterday morning.

ykakande@thenational.ae