x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Warning: aggressive driving is a fast-track to trouble

Officials are hard at work trying to make the roads safer by making people aware of the risks of driving aggressively.

DUBAI // On a hot summer afternoon, as traffic inched past the National Paints flyover, known for its gridlocks, a white Toyota Camry began dangerously tailgating a small red Nissan SUV.

The driver flashed his headlights, trying to intimidate the Nissan's driver into giving way. But the Nissan had nowhere to go.

Moments later, the Camry darted through a tiny gap and passed on the right, then cut in front and slammed on its brakes, apparently trying to teach the Nissan's female driver a lesson.

It is a scene that happens countless times. But this time, police tried to make sure the Camry driver learned a lesson too. Although no accident had occurred, because the Nissan's driver, SA, 32, contacted them, they tracked down the owner of the Camry and called him. Their message: his actions, if continued, might cost him or someone else their lives. "Over 2.5 million registered accidents last year were caused by aggressive driving and not keeping a safe distance," said Lt Col Saif Muhair Al Mazrouei, the acting chief of Dubai Traffic Police.

Aggressive driving has drawn more than 12,100 citations between April and June, police said, and related accidents occur once every two minutes on Dubai's roads.

Most road deaths are caused by speeding, perhaps the most common type of aggressive driving. Accident reports from 2010 show that drivers between the ages of 21 and 23 were responsible for 40 per cent of all traffic deaths, and 55 per cent of those caused by speeding.

The Dubai General Department of Traffic said there were 2,686 road accidents last year, of which 2,211 were caused by reckless and aggressive driving. Ninety-nine people were killed, officials said, by aggressive driving that included speeding, tailgating, jumping red signals, negligence, driving against traffic flow, failing to stick to one's lane and many others. They added that 948 of the 1080 accidents from January to May this year were caused by aggressive and reckless driving - and that 55 people were killed.

The Roads and Transport Authority is planning a publicity campaign to encourage safe weekend driving, which will target university students with brochures and messages on electronic billboards, including the campaign slogan: "Speeding shortens your life, not your time."

Officials said that besides driving safely themselves, motorists could help make the roads less dangerous simply by reporting hazardous drivers to police.

Lt Gen Mohammed Saif Al Zafein, director of the General Department of Traffic, related a story in which he spotted a Lexus driving from Al Garhoud to Al Ittihad Road towards Sharjah, aggressively bullying other cars and driving recklessly.

As the lieutenant general drew close to the car, it bullied him too, swerving dangerously towards his vehicle in an intimidating gesture. He contacted patrol officers. And when the driver was finally arrested, the Emirati woman behind the wheel was fined and her vehicle confiscated. It turned out she also was driving with expired registration and insurance, he said.

The penalties for aggressive driving that leads to an accident vary depending on the severity of the crash. Simple speeding is punishable by black points and a fine.

In May, a woman who ran a red light and smashed into another vehicle killing two pedestrians, was sentenced to a year in prison and a Dh400,000 blood money payment.

Dubai Traffic Chief Prosecutor Salah Bu Faroosha said 63 road deaths had been registered since the start of the year until mid-June, in comparison to 86 in the same period last year. About 17 per cent were caused by running a red light.

Officials hope that continuing to educate the public will lead to calmer drivers and safer roads.

salamir@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting from Awad Mustafa