x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Vigilant policing limits trouble

Police operations to control behaviour and reckless driving during National Day celebrations helped limit problems.

A man collects rubbish left over from the first night of National Day at a park on the Corniche in Abu Dhabi.
A man collects rubbish left over from the first night of National Day at a park on the Corniche in Abu Dhabi.

Police operations to control behaviour and reckless driving during National Day celebrations helped limit problems, but some drivers still prompted complaints. Across the country, police flooded areas likely to attract large numbers of revellers to ensure safety during the celebrations. In Ras al Khaimah, police were out in force to ensure that teenagers were not driving. Staff at Saqr Hospital reported a quiet night. Police and medical staff in Abu Dhabi and Dubai reported no serious injuries during the celebrations.

Fifteen people were brought to the emergency department at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Khalifa Medical City and three were admitted to hospital, officials said. Heavily congested roads in the city may have prevented more accidents resulting from reckless driving, as there was no space on the roads for would-be daredevils to speed, medical staff said. "It was relatively quiet. The traffic congestion may have worked in our favour. People simply could not move," said Dr Murray Van Dyke, chairman of emergency medicine at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

The reckless driving of celebrating youngsters made some fear for their lives. "I was driving down Jumeirah Beach Road when three motorbikes started weaving in and out of traffic," said a British civil engineer. "There were young men on the back shouting and revving their engines. They were being blatantly dangerous and could easily have killed themselves or others. This isn't patriotism, this is just being an idiot."

Many vehicles were plastered with so many flags and pictures that their drivers could not see where they were going. "I saw one car completely covered with pictures of the rulers, flags all down both sides and "UAE" and "37" sprayed over it with paint. This car was clearly unsafe to drive, and I think this kind of thing should be cracked down on," said the indignant Briton. Col Mohammed al Shamsi, director of the department of traffic and patrols at Abu Dhabi Police, said officers on the Abu Dhabi Corniche told drivers to remove pictures blocking their view but did not impose fines.

"We had pictures on our car and the police said they would confiscate our car for a month and charge Dh10,000 (US$2,725) to get it back," an Emirati said. "But they didn't really want to fine people for putting pictures of sheikhs on their cars on National Day so they took our drivers' licence until we removed the pictures, and let us go." Some revellers hung out of car windows and even stood on car roofs, but the overall situation was calm, police said.

"There was good co-operation from the drivers and generally the situation was under control," Col Shamsi said. tspender@thenational.ae