x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE motorists believe roads are getting safer

Speed enforcement on roadways have been effective in enhancing road safety in the UAE, motorists say.

ABU DHABI // Increased surveillance is encouraging respect for speed limits and other traffic laws in Abu Dhabi, motorists say.

There are three systems for automated enforcement: fixed radar cameras, infrared cameras at traffic junctions and mobile radar cameras.

These devices, and the risk of a fine, have been effective in reducing speeds and improving safety, those questioned for the survey have said.

During the first quarter of the year, 185 new radar speed cameras were installed across the emirate, and 1,469 vehicles were impounded after being caught travelling at 200kph or more, according to the Traffic and Patrols Directorate at Abu Dhabi police.

“Our roads are much safer now because there are so many radars,” said Lembahu Fatiha, 42, a Moroccan sales staff at a handicrafts and dress shop on Airport Road. “I don’t think there’s a need to increase patrols in Abu Dhabi because the police are doing a good job.”

The new infrared cameras installed at many junctions cover more than five lanes and detect red light offences excessive speed, overtaking on the hard shoulder, and failure to leave a safe distance between vehicles, among other traffic offences.

The locations of the new radars were selected after a series of studies which identify the black spot areas.

The aim is to maintain drivers’ safety and encourage them to adhere to traffic laws, said Col Khalifa Al Khaili, director of traffic and road safety engineering department.

He urged drivers to pay attention and be cautious on the road, not only to avoid being caught by the radars but to ensure their safety and that of other road users.

Drivers now recognise that speeding increases the risk of being involved in a collision.

Ms Fatiha, who has lived in the capital for 16 years, was a witness to a mass pile-up involving Dubai-bound vehicles on the E11 motorway.

“Three or four people had died in that accident 10 years ago,” she. “From then on, I made sure to always drive within the speed limit.”

Abdullah Mohammed, 20, an Emirati university student, said he has learned a valuable – and rather expensive – lesson on speeding.

“I’m more careful now,” he said. “Driving at excessive speed is not worth the risk.”

He was involved in a car crash while driving through a roundabout late at night. He lost control of the vehicle, struck a pole and rolled over. No one was hurt, but the insurance did not cover the full cost of the damage to the car, which belonged to his sister.

“I was driving at 120kph to meet a friend,” he said. “It was dark and I could hardly see anything.”

Radars and patrol cars are deterring drivers from speeding and driving recklessly, said Sharif Mohammed, 38, who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 25 years.

“However, we need more police patrolling our roads,” he said. “I still see many drivers who continue to use their mobile phones while driving, change lanes without using indicators, fail to wear their seat belts and turn left or U-turn from undesignated lanes,” he said.

Publicity campaigns are also needed to enhance the level of traffic safety, he said.

Ms Fatiha agreed, saying police should hand out awareness brochures and leaflets to motorists and pedestrians, including labourers.

“Many workers cross the road while we’re making a U-turn which is very dangerous,” she said. “Most drivers, on the other hand, do not bother to check the vehicle in front when they enter a roundabout.”

Female drivers are safer drivers because they are careful and do not drive over the speed limit, Ms Fatiha said.

“Male drivers, especially the younger ones, love to drive fast and get involved in accidents,” she said. “When they drive at excessively high speeds, they can lose control of their vehicles and cause an accident.”

But most female drivers change lanes without making sure it is safe to do so, Mr Mohammed said.

“They create a lot of problems on the road as they often abruptly step on the brakes after changing lanes and at traffic junctions,” he said.

rruiz@thenational.ae