Real stories of survivors have a greater impact on young minds than stacks of numbers and statistics on road accidents, transport authorities and the police have said.
Accident victims are visiting universities in Dubai to retell harrowing stories to college students. Road safety discipline is also being introduced to children in nursery schools as authorities strive to capture the attention of the young to prevent deaths.
Delegates at the International Road Federation conference in Dubai heard on Monday how ministries and agencies across the region should work together to reduce pedestrian fatalities and traffic accidents.
“The safety of pedestrians and children near school areas is an ongoing focus. We use a black spot analysis to identify where accidents have recurred,” said Maitha bin Adai, chief executive of the RTA’s Traffic and Roads agency.
“Analysing accident data in black spot areas resulted in lowering speed limit near schools, mosques, installing pedestrian crossings and bridges to separate people from high speed traffic. This along with setting up of radars, speed cameras was a key response to reducing fatalities,” she said.
Road fatalities in Dubai are 3.5 deaths per 100,000 people, down from as high as 21.9 per 100,000 a decade ago.
Safety experts are also reaching out to schools and colleges.
“We bring a live example to universities so they can see people who have actually been in accidents. The victims talk about their experiences. We find only in this way, students will take accidents and death seriously,” said Deema Hussein, RTA’s traffic awareness manager.
“We also start early with teams going to nursery schools. They talk to small children while playing educational games on road safety to teach them how to cross the road safely, how to board the bus carefully and always put a seat belt. We want it to be a daily habit that is not forced and this will transfer to parents also.”
Educational videos on the dangers of speeding are also screened. The practice of sending safety teams to educational institutions will continue through the year, officials said.
Mohammed Al Zafeen, assistant commander-in-chief of the Dubai Police, said a combination of legislation, fines and jail time helped reduced risky behavior on the road.
“Police try to save lives by monitoring roads. We watch for people who flout the rules at night and in deserted areas,” he said.
“If young people speed, use entertainment and quad bikes on the road, we will confiscate these.”
He also urged residents to take photographs of unsafe drivers and send them to the police while ensuring that they are parked safely while taking the photos.
Among some stiff UAE traffic penalties, a driver can be fined Dh400 plus four black points if all passengers are not wearing seat belts, exceeding the maximum speed limit by more than 80kmph will result in fines of more than Dh3,000, the vehicle confiscated for 60 days and 23 black points. Drunk drivers are slapped with similar penalties in addition to a Dh20,000 fine and court mandated jail time.
The drive to reduce accidents has been taken up in other emirates too in a series of hard-hitting videos released over the past year on social media aimed to shock motorists and curb speeding.
In a Ministry of Interior video ‘Keep the dreams alive,’ on YouTube, a viewer hears happy voices of children shouting out vacation destinations they plan to visit and jobs they want when they grow up, until the camera pans to a smashed school bus with an echo of sobbing children.
In a Sharjah Police video released on Twitter, an accident involving a child is depicted with officers urging parents to help their children cross the road safely and for motorists to slow down in school zones.
Salim Refas, division manager of the Islamic Development Bank, called for best practices to be shared across the region.
“Solutions that have worked in one place will work with some adjustments in other areas, this is what we try to advocate in the MENA region,” he said.
“We deeply believe we need to share good practices because you save time in implementation, strategy because we have the same issues, many of our challenges go beyond borders.”