x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Two charged over deadly Sheikh Zayed Road car stunts

Two motorists are charged with endangering the lives of others after a video of them performing stunts on the busy public road appeared on YouTube.

Major Gen Khamis al Muzeina watches a 4x4 perform a 'shal' on Sheikh Zayed Road.
Major Gen Khamis al Muzeina watches a 4x4 perform a 'shal' on Sheikh Zayed Road.

DUBAI // Two young drivers have been arrested and charged with endangering the lives of others by performing reckless stunts on Sheikh Zayed Road, after an online video of the incident led to a police investigation. The case has been referred to public prosecutors who will now decide whether to proceed. The two Emiratis in their early twenties face up to three years in prison and fines if convicted. Police say this is the first time a road safety offence, normally dealt with under traffic law, has been considered for criminal prosecution.

A YouTube video clip of the incident shows a pick-up truck intentionally spinning and skidding across the road, and a 4x4 zig-zagging through traffic while balanced on two wheels. Road safety experts described the drivers' behaviour as outrageous, shocking and deadly. Major Gen Khamis al Mazeina, the Dubai deputy police chief, said: "We will pursue any person across the country who will carry out such illegal activities and endanger people's lives.

"However, it is important to emphasise that such acts are individual cases and do not reflect the behaviour of Emirati youth, who in general are responsible individuals who know how to use cars." He added that these irresponsible acts damaged the country's reputation and warned that police would "fiercely crack down" on offenders. The incident took place on May 1 during a celebration convoy after the Al Wasl football club won a tournament. The police investigation revealed that an unidentified number of cars blocked Sheikh Zayed Road by driving at low speed while the two drivers performed their stunts. Police are searching for two accomplices who helped to block traffic.

"The group took advantage of the fact that police patrols were busy supervising the march and arranged for this act without being noticed or caught," Major Gen al Mazeina said. He added that no reports of the incident had been made to the police operation room, and encouraged the public to notify police of such incidents in the future. The two men charged have extensive traffic violation records, and have their driving licences confiscated, police said. Three cars involved in the incident have been impounded.

"One of the cars was confiscated prior to the media reports, but the other two we have just confiscated," Major Gen al Mazeina said. The vehicles had been impounded temporarily but a court might order permanent confiscation, he said. One of the drivers in the video, filmed near the Al Manara Street exit on the southbound side of Sheikh Zayed Road, performed doughnuts and burnouts in a pick-up truck while swerving across the road.

A 4x4 performed a "shal" - balancing on two wheels while in forward motion - near by. The cars also drove in a similar manner on the Jumeirah Beach Road. A doughnut is a manoeuvre in which the driver turns the steering wheel until it locks while skidding to leave a circular tyre mark on the road, while burnouts involve making a car's rear tyres smoke through excess acceleration. The incident came on the heels of an announcement by Dubai Police that they intended to lower the statistical traffic death rate to zero per 100,000 people by 2020. A task force to tackle aggressive driving was created as part of the initiative.

Since the launch of the task force, in April, 46 cars have been impounded, and police have issued more than 4,100 fines for offences such as reckless driving and tailgating. As part of the initiative, patrol and undercover cars are deployed on the main roads of the city, including Sheikh Zayed and Emirates roads, to catch offenders. "To achieve a safety culture, we not only need to crack down on violators, but more importantly we need to emphasise raising awareness of a safety culture," said Major Gen al Mazeina. "Changing mindsets is the most difficult change one can do, and this is necessary if we are to achieve our goals."

wissa@thenational.ae