x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Task force targets reckless drivers

More than 8,500 motorists have been penalised for speeding, racing, changing lanes dangerously, jumping red lights and overtaking on the hard shoulder.

Video footage showing drivers performing stunts in the middle of Sheikh Zayed Road triggered a furious response when it was posted on YouTube in May.
Video footage showing drivers performing stunts in the middle of Sheikh Zayed Road triggered a furious response when it was posted on YouTube in May.

DUBAI // More than 8,500 motorists have been fined and 148 cars confiscated for reckless driving in Dubai since the April launch of a task force to curb unruly behaviour on the road. The fines were issued for aggression, speeding, racing, changing lanes dangerously, jumping red lights and overtaking on the hard shoulder.

The penalty for driving recklessly is a fine of Dh2,000, 12 black points and the confiscation of the vehicle for 30 days for each offence.  Despite the risks, many drivers, particularly young ones, continue to use the city's streets to race each other and perform stunts. But the task force is aiming to eliminate such behaviour by deploying police patrol cars and unmarked traffic vehicles around the clock on the main roads of the city, including Sheikh Zayed Road and Emirates Road. It is also using CCTV cameras and radar guns to catch offenders.

Lt Col Saif Muhair al Mazrouei, the acting director of the traffic department, said the task force was already proving successful.  "Measures such as the latest operation play a deterring role," he said. "We will continue to crack down on any violators to eliminate this practice totally. I am optimistic that this will be done." Dubai Police's traffic strategy aims to achieve a zero death rate per 100,000 people by 2020. Police studies show that around 90 per cent of accidents are caused by reckless driving.

Earlier this month, police confiscated 22 cars and seven motorcycles in a sting operation targeting young drivers who were using the area surrounding Al Warqa'a roundabout as a race track. In May, a video posted on YouTube showing a number of vehicles performing stunts on Sheikh Zayed Road caused a public outcry. Two Emirati men, a police officer and a government worker, aged in their early 20s were arrested and charged with endangering the lives of others. They were each fined Dh1,000.

According to Norman Labbe, the managing director of the Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Institute for Health and Safety, road safety should be tackled through a combination of policing, community awareness and education. Mr Labbe said it was vital to teach concepts of road safety early on. "There should be education programmes for employees and students to promote good, safe driving practices," he said. "It is young drivers, between the ages of 18 and 30, who would benefit from such a campaign."

Mr Labbe said police in the capital were taking a similar approach to Dubai Police's task force, deploying unmarked traffic vehicles to conduct "random spot checks". "It seems to be working, but it needs to be implemented and promoted at a higher degree as well," he said. "Things are getting better, but there are still aggressive drivers who could be dealt with [more forcefully]." wissa@thenational.ae

zconstantine@thenational.ae