Abu Dhabi road deaths down by 25 per cent

The reduction is thanks to increased safety efforts, police said

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES Ð April 20: Traffic jam on Sheikh Zayed Road because of accident going towards Abu Dhabi near 5th interchange in Dubai. (Pawan Singh / The National)
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Road deaths in Abu Dhabi dropped by 25 per cent last year compared to the year before.

One hundred and forty nine people died in road accidents in 2018, dropping from 199 in 2017.

What police described as “major road-related injuries” also fell, from 149 in 2017 to 120 incidents last year.

The figures were released on Sunday by police who attributed the improvement in figures to their focused road safety campaign that began mid-2017.

Police increased patrolling and installed more smart monitoring systems across the capital in a bid to stifle dangerous driving.

Last year, 14 smart towers were set up on Al Raha — Dubai highway to catch motorists with expired car registration licenses and to record tailgaters by measuring the distances between cars.

Tailgating is a major cause of accidents across the UAE and is penalised with a Dh400 fine and four black points.

The new smart towers record the numbers of cars on each road to chart congestion patterns and the data is used to inform infrastructure decisions that will improve traffic flow.

The towers are also used to screen awareness messages warning of congestion, accidents ahead or to provide advice during adverse weather — and any announcements of decreased speed limits as a result of the conditions.

Police did not disclose the number of road deaths caused by run over accidents last year but said the figure had dropped by 38 per cent compared to the year before. Police said this was down to the “re-engineering of roads” to make them safer.

“More pedestrian bridges were built over roads where many jaywalkers were found to reduce run-over accidents and we added barriers on the sides of the road so they cannot cross,” said Maj Gen Ali Al Dhaheri, director of police central operations.

The most notable change made to traffic safety last year was to abolish the 20kph speed limit buffer on all Abu Dhabi roads in August. Maj Gen Ali Al Dhaheri said that, though it was too soon to tell if the change contributed to the decrease in road deaths, motorists had generally responded positively to the initiative.

He said motorists from other emirates had suggested the speed buffer be scrapped across the country.

Last year also saw more road users reporting issues to the police emergency line with more than 1.18 million calls made — almost double the 645,000 received the previous year. The force encourages members of the community to report all types of crime to allow swifter intervention by police and ambulances.

“Receiving more calls is a good thing, because it shows that people have grown to trust in the police and seek aid from them before anybody else,” said Maj Gen Al Dhaheri.

Reports have shown that despite an annual increase of cars on UAE roads, road deaths have significantly dropped since 2007.

The Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018, revealed that the total number of registered vehicles in the country reached almost 3.4 million last year. In 2007, there were around 17 road deaths per 100,000 people but by 2018, the number dropped to 4 deaths for every 100,000 people.

Mohamad Al Samsam, a regular commuter between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, said that despite the decrease in road deaths, he does not feel any safer on the country’s roads.

“I see crashes all the time while driving. Just two days ago I saw a Land Rover on fire on the side of the highway,” said the Syrian, 28.

“I drive to the speed limit and a car will come flying from behind me yet does not get caught by the radar. I don’t understand what speed they are driving on.”

He said encouraging the public to frequently report incidents of bad driving to the police may not necessarily be positive.

“I was once driving on the highway on the second left lane, which is supposed to be relatively fast as well. In front of me, a motorist was driving at 80kph so I signalled for him to move to the right. He didn’t and the following day I received a call from the police.

“I explained to them what happened, and nothing was held against me.”

Maj Gen Al Dhaheri said police will be targeting slow drivers in future campaigns to educate them that they should be driving on the far right lane, and not disturb traffic in the middle to left lanes if they were too slow for the speed limit.