UAE drivers ‘risk lives’ as rain lashes down

Traffic experts warned motorists that the most important precaution to take when the weather is bad is to reduce their speed.

Heavy rain across the country yesterday made roads treacherous, and a spate of accidents prompted police to warn drivers to take extra care. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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ABU DHABI // Drivers are putting their own lives and the lives of others in danger because they don’t know how to adapt their driving to the kind of wet, windy and foggy conditions that battered parts of the country on Sunday, police said.

Traffic experts warned motorists that the most important precaution to take when the weather is bad is to reduce their speed. They also urged drivers to always use their indicators, check their tyres and to take care when changing lanes to prevent crashes.

“In other countries, every other day there is rain and people are used to driving during the rainy season,” said Maj Gen Mohammed Al Zafeen, the director of the Dubai Police traffic department.

“Here, the problem is that it is always sunny. Then when it gets wet it is a totally different story. Most of the drivers do not know how to drive during the rainy season.”

Driving in the rain is “a different ball game”, Gen Al Zafeen said.

“They should cut down on their speed,” he said. “This is the main factor. They also have to turn their lights on, especially when visibility is down.

“They should use directional signals and they have to use wipers, and have good wipers to begin with.

“But the most important thing is to cut down on the speed. This is the major factor in accidents because the roads get slippery.”

Gen Al Zafeen also said water pooled on some roads. Coupled with poor visibility, this adds further risk, especially for the inexperienced motorist.

“The issue here is that our rainy season is probably the equivalent of about 10 hours of rainfall a year, so people don’t know how to drive in it. They are not used to it,” he said.

Drivers also have a tendency to drive at the same speeds in the rain as they would do in sunny, dry weather, said Gen Al Zafeen.

But slippery wet patches on the road can cause the car to skid if it is going too fast for the poor weather conditions, and inexperienced motorists can overcorrect.

Dr Abdulilah Zineddin, a road-safety expert in Abu Dhabi, said UAE roads followed international standards for motorway design.

“So they are equipped, in general, to deal with inclement weather conditions,” he said.

“However, these roads must be maintained properly. The sand usually fills up the drainage pipes and it is crucial that these pipes follow a rigorous maintenance programme.

“My advice to drivers is to plan their trip. If you know it is going to rain, then leave a little bit early so you don’t rush. They must also check their tyres and brakes.”

Traffic police must also play their part, Dr Zineddin said.

“I think police have a big responsibility,” he said. “They should make more police vehicles visible so drivers are forced to drive slower.”

Thomas Edelmann, a road-safety expert from Austria and founder of the Road Safety UAE initiative, said driving on a motorway that has a speed limit of 120kph does not mean you have to drive that fast, especially in poor weather conditions.

“Maybe you have to be doing 60kph,” he said. “We have to slow down and use our brain – not the accelerator,” he said.

“If visibility goes down, then attention must go up and speed must go down.”

The weather bureau on Sunday also urged motorists to abide by traffic rules, reduce speed and leave enough distance between vehicles during the rainy weather.

jbell@thenational.ae