Latest statistics from Abu Dhabi traffic police highlight an alarming proliferation of speeding and dangerous driving. In the first three months of this year, the police have issued around 100,000 tickets for these offences. Out of these, about 14,000 were handed out to motorists who were driving at more than 60kph above the speed limit. This is a very high number considering that we have speed buffers that allow exceeding the limit by up to 20kph. Other offences include failure to use seat belts, using mobile phones while driving and driving cars with worn-out tyres.
We have to keep in mind that this is only the number of recorded fines, not the actual number of traffic offences. We don’t know the number of offenders who did not get caught because they were simply lucky, or so familiar with the location of speed cameras that they know when to slow down. Even so, it is clear that the current deterrents aren’t effective enough in stopping people from breaking traffic rules.
This is not just a traffic issue, or even a public safety issue. It can be seen as an indication of people’s attitudes towards the law. If so many drivers feel comfortable breaking simple rules such as speed limits, are they also comfortable about breaking other laws? Do some people view the law of the land as a mere suggestion rather than an order to be complied with?
Clearly, tougher measures are necessary. The automatic enforcement of speed limits through radar cameras is only one way to improve road safety. Traffic police have to be more visible – particularly on motorways – and prepared to pull over those who speed between radar points, tailgate, use mobile phones while driving or commit other offences. And drivers need to know that, if caught breaking the law, they will face real consequences ranging from heavy fines to car confiscation and, in serious cases, imprisonment. People have to feel uncomfortable about breaking the law, not just near speed radars, but anywhere on and off the road.