Don't phone and drive, Abu Dhabi students urged

The Yasalam Responsibly bus is visiting schools across Abu Dhabi as police conduct road safety campaigns in the emirate where one person dies in a road accident every 26 hours.

Police believe Aya, pictured here with her cousin, was speeding when her sports car struck the kerb and flipped over. Courtesy Nader Farhat
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ABU DHABI // One person is killed in a road accident every 26 hours and another injured every 54 minutes in the emirate, according to Abu Dhabi Police.

To help reduce this, campaigners from the Yasalam Responsibly safe-driving initiative demonstrated safety rules, precautions and safe pedestrian crossing at Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed School.

Students were urged to avoid using mobile phones while driving.

The double-decker Yasalam Responsibly bus, fitted with simulators and "info-tainment" screens, parked at the school and pupils queued to play the educational games on offer.

The session informed students that the estimated cost to the community of road injuries is Dh3.55 billion per year.

Police said more than 50 per cent of collisions involve drivers with less than five years' experience.

Worldwide, the use of mobile phones causes more than 20 per cent of road accidents.

The campaign bus, which has promoted the programme for the past three weeks, has visited five universities and schools so far, with six to seven more visits scheduled before the end of the month.

Educational tools include games about fatalities, safety rules and driving in bad weather.

"Mobile phones are one of the leading causes of road accidents in the UAE, especially among the younger generation," said Brig Hussain Ahmed Al Harthy, from Abu Dhabi Police. "It is important to emphasise that it is the passengers' duty as much as the drivers themselves - you should not let your friends get away with irresponsible behaviour."

Muna Khallassi, general trainer at the Emirates Driving Company, engaged students in an interactive session, offering lessons about safe driving, speeding and driving without a seat belt.

Most students interviewed were between the ages of 15 and 17 and said they drove their parents' cars without a driving licence. One had been in a previous accident.

Pedestrian deaths represent 25 per cent of road fatalities. Ms Khallassi asked students to be careful when walking and to use designated crossings. She also emphasised the importance of a seat belt.

"You are 50 per cent more likely to be killed or suffer serious injuries if you are not wearing your seat belts. Wear it across the chest, making sure it's not twisted."

Ms Khallassi posed questions to the pupils and reminded them to take the weather into account.

Saif Al Yaasi, 16, said: "Sometimes I drive my dad's car in the Mushrif vicinity but follow all the rules. I don't have a driving licence and will apply in the coming years.

"I had a minor accident near Mushrif mosque while reversing my car and did not watch in the mirror. My car collided with the approaching bus behind me."

Abdul Aziz, 15, does not "drive but I learnt a lot from the demonstration - not to overspeed, wear seat belts, do not talk over the phone while driving".

Ali Abdullah Al Jaeidi, 16, drives "in the desert and rarely enters the city". "I never met with an accident or any police caught me up so far," he added. "But I drive safely wearing seat belts and I follow rules."