x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

With drivers’ assistance, mobile app will help police catch offenders

Residents have been asked to report offences such as show-off stunts, overtaking on the hard shoulder and jumping red lights to the Traffic and Patrols Directorate of the Abu Dhabi Police via the CityGuard app.

Some motorists think using the CityGuard app to report dangerous driving should be done by passengers only. Silvia Razgova / The National
Some motorists think using the CityGuard app to report dangerous driving should be done by passengers only. Silvia Razgova / The National

ABU DHABI // A free mobile application to report traffic offences has brought mixed reactions from motorists and road-safety experts.

Residents have been asked to report offences such as stunts, overtaking on the hard shoulder and jumping red lights to the Traffic and Patrols Directorate of the Abu Dhabi Police via the CityGuard app.

“People will now be careful not to commit any violations,” said Suresh Therayil, 40, a company messenger who drives a motorcycle. He also has a light vehicle licence. “If people report drivers who speed, make unsafe lane changes and run red lights, we’ll have fewer accidents.”

Junaid Jaan, 27, a company driver who has lived in Abu Dhabi for six years, agreed.

“Many drivers suddenly change lanes without using their indicators or checking their rear-view mirrors,” he said. “They also exceed the speed limit on Khaleej Al Arabi road and overtake on the hard shoulder. We should report them to the police.”

Receiving traffic reports through the CityGuard app was part of the Abu Dhabi government’s plan to encourage public participation in reporting various issues including traffic offences, Brig Gen Hussein Al Harthi, director of the traffic department, said.

The public should provide the plate number, type of vehicle, location and time of the offence.

“Public reporting using mobile phones is a common practice in western countries,” said Dr Oualid Ben Ali, an associate professor at the University of Sharjah, who developed a fog warning system using advanced mobile and smartphone technologies.

“I think such application can enormously improve the road safety because nowadays patrol cars, cameras and other devices are not enough to capture all the misbehaviour on the road. But we need to make people aware of the responsibility in using such an app so they don’t abuse it.”

Dino Kalivas, training and road safety adviser at Emirates Driving Company (EDC), said there was little evidence to suggest that citizens reporting driving offences reduces or contributes to road trauma reduction as statistics are difficult to obtain and many variables may contribute.

“Other countries have adopted similar systems around the world, and while initially creating much interest from the public, the actual incidents of reporting ‘violations’ as observed by other motorists is not sustained and the incidence of people to report reduces over time,” he said.

“The public believes, quite rightly, that the responsibility of law enforcement remains with those best qualified – the traffic police.”

In certain situations motorists who have attempted to report offences have also placed themselves at risk, as they distract themselves from having complete control over their motor vehicles, he added. A motorist who suffered whiplash injuries as a result of bad driving by a taxi driver said reporting traffic offences using the app was “not practical”.

“It’s worse than using a mobile phone while driving,” said the 65-year-old British engineer. “Maybe the stipulation will be that it should be operated by a passenger or a driver of a parked vehicle.

Thomas Edelmann, founder of the website Road Safety UAE, said distracted driving must not be the effect when using the application.

“Passengers can use the app while driving, or the driver uses the app after driving, or when it is safe to do so.”

EDC recommends that passengers participate and use mobile devices to report traffic offences. “Even this practice has an element of risk because passengers may distract the driver, regardless if a vehicle is stationary or not,” said Khaled Al Mansoori, vice chief executive of EDC.

“Drivers should first and foremost take responsibility for their own actions.”

Respecting and obeying traffic rules, driving in a calm, rational manner, ensuring all occupants are wearing their seat belts, allowing an adequate stopping distance, and maintaining concentration should always be a priority, he said.

rruiz@thenational.ae