x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Two in three drivers have seen accidents

A poll shows that in the last 3 months, no less than 66 per cent of people questioned have witnessed a traffic accident.

Drivers in the UAE commonly talk on hand-held mobile phones, fail to use their indicators and other behavior that creates dangerous driving conditions, the survey shows.
Drivers in the UAE commonly talk on hand-held mobile phones, fail to use their indicators and other behavior that creates dangerous driving conditions, the survey shows.

To see the full results of The National's road safety survey, go to our 'Road to Safety' interactive click on 'survey' and browse through the graphics.

Drivers in the UAE commonly talk on hand-held mobile phones, race against other motorists, fail to use their indicators, swerve erratically across lanes, tailgate, flash their headlights to bully others out of the way and overtake on the hard shoulders of motorways. A poll for The National also shows that in the past three months, no less than 66 per cent of people questioned have witnessed a traffic accident. Of those 281 witnesses, nearly half (47 per cent) have seen at least three accidents during the same period. Eighteen per cent of witnesses saw fatal accidents; 40 per cent saw wrecks that caused serious injuries.

Two-thirds of all respondents had a journey delayed by an accident, with 63 per cent blaming the hold-up on other drivers who slowed down to look. The survey by YouGov, an international research organisation, tracked the experiences and opinions of UAE residents regarding the country's roads. There were 408 respondents and a margin of error of 4.9 per cent. The poll was conducted from July 2 to July 5, in the week after three young Emirati sisters were killed while crossing a road in Abu Dhabi.

Twenty-one per cent of respondents blamed speeding by drivers and reckless behaviour by pedestrians equally as the main causes of accidents involving pedestrians on the roads of the Emirates. But 18 per cent also implicate a lack of footbridges and tunnels, while a further eight per cent highlight a dearth of marked crossings, suggesting many believe that poor planning leaves pedestrians with little choice but to behave recklessly.

Another 11 per cent blame pedestrian accidents on "inconsiderate" drivers who fail to stop at marked crossings. Three hundred and eleven of the respondents (76 per cent) hold a UAE driving licence and 26 (six per cent) are taking driving lessons. Only 35 per cent of respondents strongly agreed that the UAE is not a pedestrian-friendly country, with 30 per cent agreeing somewhat but 36 per cent disagreeing.

The offence seen most commonly was drivers talking on mobile telephones, witnessed by 75 per cent during the past three months. Other common offences: failure to signal, experienced by 71 per cent, tailgating (67 per cent), the reckless crossing of roads by pedestrians (65 per cent) and racing, sudden swerving and flashing lights to bully the driver in front into moving out of the way (acts each seen by 61 per cent of respondents). Almost half (48 per cent) have seen cars being driven on hard shoulders, while 55 per cent report overtaking on inside lanes.

Child safety is seen as being widely ignored, with significant numbers reporting children not wearing seat belts (39 per cent) and even more spotting children being carried in the front seats of cars (41 per cent). Asked to rate the seriousness of 11 road offences punishable by fines and black points, respondents felt most strongly about racing (83 per cent), swerving suddenly (77 per cent) and the illegal or reckless crossing of roads by pedestrians (75 per cent).

Fourth was motorists who failed to stop at designated pedestrian crossings. Despite carrying a fine of Dh500 (US$136) and six black points, it is one of the most widely ignored and unenforced rules of the road in the UAE. Nevertheless, 51 per cent of respondents regard it as an extremely serious offence, with a further 38 per cent rating it as "somewhat" serious. Failing to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front is regarded as extremely serious by 59 per cent, and somewhat serious by 35 per cent.

Although more than 80 per cent of respondents think there should be more police patrols - 88 per cent among westerners - 65 per cent disagreed with the suggestion that current penalties for road offences were not tough enough. That could be tied to the perception shared by the 69 per cent who believe the fines system is primarily a revenue-generating device, a view held by 86 per cent of all westerners, but significantly fewer Emiratis.

One-third of respondents doubted that speed cameras contributed meaningfully to reducing accidents, whereas 59 per cent say they have noticed a "big improvement" on the roads since the introduction of penalty points in March last year. A a majority (63 per cent) believe that the punishment regime for traffic offences is not applied equitably across nationalities. Among the 35 per cent who feel strongly about this, most are Western and Asian. In contrast, the majority of Emiratis disagree with this view.

The poll suggests a clear division among ethnic groups in attitudes towards certain types of driving offences, with western expatriates emerging consistently as the most safety-conscious. For example, while the vast majority of westerners believe that allowing young children to ride in the front seat of a vehicle is an extremely serious offence, the view is shared by a smaller proportion of respondents from other nationalities. Likewise, 93 per cent of westerners say failing to put a child in a seat belt is an extremely serious offence, but only 63 per cent of the overall sample. In all cases, offences are taken marginally more seriously by women than by men - and least seriously of all by people aged 21 to 29. jgornall@thenational.ae