Gear up for a safe drive in UAE

Road safety is a collective responsibility that involves the police, motorists, pedestrians and residents.

  

Khaleej Times has launched a campaign to drive home this point. Part 1 of the 14-part series provides an overview of road safety issues in the UAE and how that one moment of distraction could prove fatal.

Globally, a person dies every 24 seconds from a traffic-related incident. That means almost 1.4 million people die and tens of millions more are injured or disabled every year, according to a report released last month by the World Health Organisation.

In the UAE, authorities have recorded 88 road fatalities just in Dubai from January to July 2018; including 28 deaths caused by sudden swerving. In 2017, 525 people died due to various types of accidents (including 230 people who died due to speeding). The total number of fatalities has sharply declined when compared to incidents in 2016, which recorded 706 deaths. There are no final statistics yet for 2018 but numerous incidents have been recorded across the country.

The accidents are always harrowing and headlines are definitely startling. Just last week, one Emirati died and four others were injured when their vehicle caught fire after swerving and smashing into a concrete barrier on the side of the road at a high speed.

Authorities, road safety experts, civil society and Khaleej Times are making all the efforts to achieve the goal of making the UAE one of the safest countries in the world.

The Dubai Police are one year away from its target of reducing the number of road fatalities to zero per 100,000 residents by 2020 while the target for the entire country is to have only three deaths per 100,000 residents by 2021. Holistic, repeated and strongly communicated campaigns on road safety are needed to achieve these goals.

Thomas Edelmann, founder and managing director of RoadSafetyUAE, said: "In order to improve road safety in the UAE, we need to focus on the big strategic issues."

One major issue that Edelmann underlined is residents failing to buckle up. He noted that in 2017, the Abu Dhabi Police issued an alarming statistic: 60 per cent of road traffic fatalities in Abu Dhabi could have been avoided with the use of seatbelts alone.

"The holistic seatbelt law was introduced almost two years ago. The 'honeymoon' period is over now and motorists must learn the consequences of not buckling up themselves or any other person in their vehicle. Strongly communicated seatbelt enforcement initiatives would definitely deserve to be the key element of road safety in 2019," he emphasised.

There should also be a collective change in the attitude of road users.

Khalid Javed, training and technical consultant at Emirates Driving Institute, said: "Many road accidents occur due to the bad behaviour or negative attitude of motorists when they are sharing the road with other road users. It is not caused due to the lack of skills but due to the negative behaviour.

"Therefore, it is essential to spread awareness among the road users, utilising different resources to educate them, specifically youngsters and novice drivers," he added.

Road safety starts from a simple step of ensuring that you care not just for yourself but also for others. Ian Littlefield, training and quality manager at Dubai Driving Centre, said: "We need to focus on simple preventive measures that will safeguard us against any harm."

For motorists, this means giving themselves enough time to complete their journey even if there are delays; leaving enough space between vehicles; making signals or using indicators ahead of time to allow other drivers to react properly.

Pulling over in a safe place to take a rest when tired is also a basic safety requirement and not using phones while driving will make the journey safer. Being a safe and responsible driver also means being considerate and courteous on the road even if others are not.

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