The danger of distracted driving is evident in the UAE, with one out of every three motorists using mobile phones while driving. This distraction could lead to road accidents and even death, warned road safety experts on Thursday.

Eighty-five deaths were reported in 2022 alone due to distracted driving, as per data from the Ministry of Interior. One major cause of distraction highlighted by a recent survey commissioned by RoadSafetyUAE and Al Wathba Insurance is the use of mobile phones. The survey underscored the need to switch off the phone or put it on silent mode while driving to increase concentration behind the wheel.

Based on the survey of 1,001 individuals in January 2024, motorists in the UAE are aware of the dangers of distracted driving, but at the same time, a high percentage admits to driving in a distracted manner.

“Nine out of 10 drivers think distracted driving is dangerous, but only 81 per cent or eight out ten motorists are always fully concentrated on the road, which means that one out of five motorists around us does not pay full attention,” the survey revealed.

It added the number even reaches a ratio of one out of four in certain segments, like with very young drivers in the age bracket from 19-24 years with only 77 per cent. Arab and Western expats registered a lower percentage at 74 and 76 per cent, respectively.

“Motorists are aware of the dangers of distracted driving, but at the same time, a high percentage admits to driving in a distracted manner,” said Thomas Edelmann, founder and managing director of RoadSafetyUAE.

“It goes without saying that 100 per cent of motorists need to be always fully concentrated while behind the wheel,” he underscored, noting: “Distractions stem from the driver’s behaviour, the behaviour of others in the car, and from external factors. It is of utmost importance that motorists reflect on these sources of distraction to benefit themselves, their passengers and other road users.”

Quick fix: ‘Switch off’

A whopping 77 per cent of drivers who participated in the survey said 'switching the mobile phone off or putting it on silent mode helps them to concentrate while driving'.

“We believe major and urgent efforts of all involved stakeholders must be taken to address this vital point. Motorists are aware that this simple remedy will help them. It is a simple little action motorists must take to tackle the main killer on UAE roads. We all can do it, and there is simply no excuse not doing it,” underscored Muralikrishnan Raman, chief finance and operations officer of Al Wathba Insurance.

“We call on all involved stakeholders to address their respective audiences, and in particular the eco-system of mobile operators and mobile phone brands, with their powerful consumer reach. Distracted driving is the main killer on our roads, and corporations, governmental bodies, the media, and the road users can help us make a difference,” added Edelmann.

Meanwhile, all mobile phones have a DND or do not disturb function to block any incoming calls and disable most notifications or text messages to help drivers focus on the road.

Here are main causes of distracted driving

  • Use or mobile phones – 33%
  • Navigation System – 28%
  • Hands-free phone calls – 22%
  • Reaching for objects in the car – 21%
  • Adjusting air conditioning – 18%
  • Eating and drinking – 18%
  • Passengers speaking to you – 17%
  • Poorly behaved children – 17%
  • Changing the radio station/entertainment system – 15%
  • Lighting/smoking/extinguishing a cigarette – 14%
  • Putting on make-up – 10%
  • Children watching videos – 10%

External factors that contribute to distracted driving

  • Behaviour of other drivers – 41%
  • Complex road systems – 28%
  • Advertising billboards – 19%
  • Supercars and other specialist vehicles – 19%
  • Road signs – 19%
  • The UAE skyline – 17%
  • Slowing down to view a traffic accident – 15%

Aside from switching off or silencing mobile phones, survey respondents also said these measures help them to concentrate on the road

  • Speed limiters – 51%
  • Presence of speed cameras – 44%
  • Navigation system –33%
  • Being alone – 28%
  • Listening to own music playlist – 26%
  • Police presence – 26%
  • Listening to radio – 26%
  • Having others in the car – 23%
  • Coffee or caffeinated drinks – 19%
  • Proximity of reckless drivers –17%
  • Talking to a passenger – 16%

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