More motorists are prone to tailgaiting, swerving, and use of mobiles phones while behind the wheel, making roads more dangerous in the past six months, according to a survey released on Monday.
The results of Road Safety Monitor report, commissioned by i-Insured and RoadSafetyUAE and conducted by YouGov in September from a sample of 1,016 residents, reflected the perception of UAE motorists on the main causes of road accidents.
Despite the findings, motorists still believe that the roads are safer than they were in the first half of 2015, when the first UAE Road Safety Monitor was carried out. Also on the positive side, road infrastructure has significantly improved, resulting in a pleasant driving experience.
Almost 6 out of 10, or 57 per cent of the respondents, said they had seen more vehicles speeding on the roads in the past six months, up by nine percentage points (48 per cent) as compared to the results in the first quarter of this year. The result, however, was 11 points down (66 per cent) when compared with the initial 2015 survey.
Violations on the rise
Tailgating is up by eight percentage points (59 per cent) as compared to 52 per cent in the Q1 2018 poll. Use of mobile phones is up by 13 per cent (69 per cent from the previous 56 per cent) while swerving is also up by 13 points, from 47 per cent to 60 per cent.
The survey also revealed that almost one in five motorists (19 per cent, up from 16) has been involved in a vehicle collision in the last six months. Authorities have recorded 88 road fatalities in Dubai from January to July this year, while 28 deaths have been caused by swerving in the emirate.
Accidents have also contributed to longer driving hours, from 42 per cent to 55 per cent. Overall, four out of 10 or 40 per cent of the motorists said the roads had become more dangerous, up by two per cent from the previous survey.
Despite the dangers posed by irresponsible drivers, road infrastructure has significantly improved by 15 percentage points (83 per cent from previous 68 per cent) and motorists said their enjoyment of driving in the country had increased (45 per cent to 58 per cent)
Thomas Edelmann, managing director of RoadSafetyUAE, said: "We applaud the authorities' continued efforts in further improving the road infrastructure, but unfortunately, we see reversals in all dimensions of reckless driving, namely in distracted driving, lane swerving, speeding, and tailgating. Probably, as a result of these observed increases, the commute times went up. In contrast, we observe positive trends for further improved infrastructure and overall driving enjoyment."
"The long-term 'UAE Road Safety Monitor', which i-Insured started jointly with RoadSafetyUAE in 2015, links the perception of UAE motorists to the main causes of road accidents. Perception counts and we have seen a strong correlation between the research findings and the recorded number of accidents and fatalities," added Frederik Bisbjerg, executive vice president at i-Insured.
The recurring study is used to provide valuable feedback about the impact of the stakeholders' efforts aimed at increasing road safety. The study is repeated every six months with the next release slated for the first quarter of 2019.
Malaysian-Singaporean expat KC Cheah said: "Personally, I've seen reckless driving habits on and off, even though it's not prevalent, I detest it. We have only one life and one act of irresponsible driving is enough to take it away or destroy another life. Stronger enforcement and education should happen, and other than monetary fines perhaps, mandatory social works in hospitals to treat the reckless-driving patients could be the way to go."
"Things really have to change," added Dubai resident and Filipino blogger Ion Gonzaga. "We need to be extra cautious on the roads. The use of mobile phones while driving is so rampant. Every day I see motorists looking on their mobile. Nothing has changed. Stricter implementation is key. Many drivers don't care at all so I think an educational campaign should be done."
Indian expat Ajithkumar, who used to work as a taxi driver added: "The UAE roads are of very high standards. What's the use of having good roads when some people are not conscious of driving safely? Driver's behaviour should really improve."
Road a sharing place, driving teamwork
Motorists and safety experts note that authorities have taken steps to provide a safe environment to road users but they also agree that more has to be done to reduce the number of road accidents in the UAE.
"We need to educate people in thinking differently while driving. Drivers are penalised due to lack of positive behaviour on the road instead of lack of driving skills. They (motorists) must understand that the road is a sharing place and driving is team work and such driving techniques can be instilled during the learner's and driver's training," Khalid Javed, training and technical consultant at Emirates Driving Institute, told Khaleej Times.
"These safety tips can be taught to potential drivers such as school students at an early stage. We should also conduct regular driver safety campaigns and interactive theory sessions. Moreover, the use of safety exhibits will enable the drivers to consider their driving attitude and subsequent consequences others may face," he added.
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