Education and visible policing are key to road safety

Campaigns to educate the public are worthwhile, but they must be paired with enforcement.
Through community education and enforcement, the next road-safety survey should be even better.
Through community education and enforcement, the next road-safety survey should be even better.

When two-thirds of drivers in the UAE are concerned for their own safety every time they get behind the wheel, it is clear there is a problem that needs to be addressed. The figures in the latest YouGov survey commissioned by The National constitute a call for action, but the question for the authorities is what to target first.

The perception that the roads are unsafe, regardless of whether one is driving one’s own car or riding in a bus or taxi, contrasts with other more positive results that emerge in the survey, such as a sharp decrease in the number of accidents. A similar survey in 2009 showed that 22 per cent of people had been involved in a road accident in the previous three months. In the latest survey, that figure has dropped to 12 per cent.

The survey provides not just a call to action but also information about which areas need to be tackled first. Another finding is that taxi drivers were perceived as the most dangerous road users, ahead of young drivers and lorry drivers. TransAD, the taxi regulatory authority in Abu Dhabi, has already been concentrating on taxi drivers with a goal to halve their accident rate. Taxi speed is monitored automatically via GPS and in March, the tolerance before drivers are fined was reduced.

Taxi drivers have protested against being labelled the most dangerous road users, but the views of one of their number, are instructive. This cabbie, who received an award from TransAD last year for being a safe driver, told The National that he followed all the road rules, including “keep[ing] a two-metre distance between my taxi and the vehicle in front of me”. That distance is manifestly insufficient for safe driving.

The comment captures a unique aspect of driving in the UAE, where most road users have learnt to drive in their countries of origin and bring those habits here. It shows why the primary emphasis has to be on education so that everyone knows the standard required in the Emirates.

Education has to be paired with enforcement. Increasing the number of speed cameras plays its part, but there is also a role for visible policing, where drivers who speed, tailgate and swerve wildly between lanes without indicating are pulled over by the police – and are seen by other drivers. Through community education and enforcement, the next road-safety survey should be even better.

Published: May 26, 2014 04:00 AM

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