Police patrols will be stepped up and flexible opening hours introduced at UAE schools on Monday to help tackle a surge in traffic as hundreds of thousands of pupils start the new academic year.
Action plans are being put in place in classrooms and police headquarters across the country to cope with the back-to-school rush.
A rise in the UAE's pupil population and an increased number of schools – prompted by the country's population boom – mean this year's first day back could be especially busy as parents and teaching staff take to the roads.
A nationwide Accident-Free Day campaign – in which drivers can have four black points wiped from their licences if they steer clear of trouble on the roads – will be held on Monday to encourage motorists to exercise caution on congested roads.
Maj Gen Saif Al Mazrouei, director of traffic at Dubai Police, urged drivers to comply with stop signs on school buses and warned against overtaking them.
“It is important to stop when the stop signs are flagged. Such violations would result in penalties of Dh1,000 and black points as per traffic law,” said Maj Gen Al Mazrouei.
He warned drivers to drive carefully, obey speed limits and to avoid being distracted by mobile phones.
Brig Mahmoud Al Belooshi, director of traffic and patrols at Abu Dhabi Police, said more officers will be deployed to direct traffic and allow school buses through.
“We will have policemen on pedestrian crossings to ensure the safety of our students until they enter their schools,” he added.
Brig Al Belooshi called on bus drivers to give pupils enough time to get on and off their vehicles, to keep to speed limits and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.
He also offered advice to parents taking their children to school on Monday.
“Families who drive their children to schools should not allow those aged under 10 to sit in the front seat,” Brig Al Belooshi said.
And he urged parents to park in designated parking spots and to help young children to cross roads.
“Parents should also teach their children the correct way of stepping in and out of the buses and to avoid playing in streets while waiting for the school bus.”
Major Gen Saif Al Shamsi, commander-in-chief of Sharjah Police, said: “We have a comprehensive traffic plan to ensure the safety of our students by monitoring the traffic movement on Sharjah roads to reduce traffic jams and accidents.”
He said police patrols would be redeployed to direct traffic near schools.
Schools braced for busy start
Head teachers have taken steps to minimise back-to-school stress for parents.
“We’re being flexible with the start and finish times for each day on the first week back to help [them] ease back in,” said Simon Jodrell, principal at Jebel Ali School in Dubai.
He said parents will have a half-hour flexible window around drop-off and collection times.
This is to help reduce the pressure of trying to navigate heavier-than-usual traffic to reach school on time.
“There’s an increased number of pupils this year so we have to be as accommodating as possible,” said Mr Jodrell.
“The first day back at school is always the busiest time on UAE roads, especially now with so many more new families enrolling.”
Albie Huyser, principal and chief executive of Gems Cambridge International Private School in Sharjah, said all possible measures were being taken to ensure a smooth first day back.
An online meeting was held with parents on Wednesday to advise them on how best to plan ahead and avoid being stuck in traffic.
“We do everything in our capacity to support our parents,” she said.
“We open the gates well before the school officially opens, and we provide buses for all our students, encouraging parents to utilise them to avoid being stuck in traffic.”
She said the school is in constant communication with parents caught in traffic, via phone calls or text message as required.
School leaders are also collaborating with Sharjah police.
“They are incredibly supportive, arriving in the mornings to help organise traffic,” Ms Huyser said.