No detours on the road to safety

Six years after the deaths of three Emirati girls, the focus on safety has to continue

Road safety has to be an even higher priority now that the middle of summer is here. Delores Johnson / The National
Powered by automated translation

When the UAE was deeply shocked six years ago today by the deaths of three young Emirati sisters as they crossed the road, it became a turning point for road safety in this country. Since then, a relentless focus on the issue – by legislators, by those who enforce the law and through initiatives such as The National’s Road To Safety campaign – has paid dividends. The toll of those killed or seriously injured on the roads is steadily decreasing year by year.

However just how much work still lies ahead was reinforced by the news that so far this year, Dubai Police alone have rescued around 60 babies, toddlers or children left alone in cars. As we reported yesterday, temperatures inside cars in summer can increase to 50°C after just 20 minutes, causing potentially fatal heatstroke for any child left inside.

The habit of leaving cars running while the parent or nanny leaves the car to perform an errand is no solution. The risks of a child accidentally putting the car in gear or the engine stalling are obvious, yet this practice persists.

What all this demonstrates is that some of the focus needs to be put on instilling a general culture of safety. Especially at this time of year, when there is a tendency to act on autopilot as we cope with the enervating heat of a Gulf summer, even greater attention needs to be paid to driving safely.

This is no easy task. The high percentage of expatriate workers in the UAE means they tend to bring the driving culture of their countries of origin with them. Meanwhile, the rate at which expatriates leave and are replaced by others makes it particularly difficult to change the driving culture.

Nor will the answer come in a single initiative. Every country that seeks to make its roads safer has found that progress becomes increasingly difficult as the road toll drops and a multifaceted approach is needed for progress to continue. These include factors as diverse as driver education, enforcement, road engineering and ensuring all vehicles are mechanically sound.

But sparing even one family from the devastation of losing a loved one shows the importance of continuing to lower the road toll. The efforts so far have saved hundreds of families from that, but rather than being grounds for complacency, it should act as a spur for all of us to maintain the progress already made.