ABU DHABI // The good condition of roads and motorways is making them more dangerous, road-safety experts say.
The Government has made great improvements to the country’s roads, they say, but that has encouraged speeding and related bad habits.
“Negative results of tailgating, distracted driving and abrupt lane changes at high speeds can be devastating,” said Michael Dreznes, vice president of the International Road Federation.
Thomas Edelmann, founder of Road Safety UAE, said drivers must now play their role in ensuring everyone travelled safely.
“The UAE authorities are doing their part to make our roads safer and more efficient,” Mr Edelmann said. “It is now the turn of the country’s drivers to fulfil their end of the bargain.”
The warnings come as a YouGov survey of 1,003 residents found 56 per cent said driving had become more dangerous in the past six months, even as 79 per cent thought the condition of roads had improved.
The findings came as little surprise to Adnan Khalil, 29, a motorsports enthusiast in Dubai who owns a modified car.
He said building and widening existing roads meant more people driving – and driving faster.
“Roads have improved in recent years, with the number of lanes increasing to five or six,” Mr Khalil said. “Five or six roundabouts on Al Khail Road were removed, resulting in smooth traffic flow.
“There are sensible drivers out there, but you’ll see people driving at excessive speeds and changing lanes abruptly.”
Iftekhar Ahmad, a Canadian who arrived in the UAE in 1995, said: “New roads and bridges are being built across the Emirates to enhance safety.
“Sadly, people continue to drive recklessly. I’m particularly fed up by distracted drivers who use their phones to chat and read emails at traffic junctions.”
Frederik Bisbjerg, vice president of retail at Qatar Insurance – which commissioned the survey along with Road Safety UAE – was worried by the response.
“I feel we have an important role to play to help overcome this and make the roads safer,” Mr Bisbjerg said.
Sixty-seven per cent of the residents surveyed said they witnessed more speeding and 64 per cent said tailgating was increasingly common.
Seventy-nine per cent reported a rise in distracted driving and 69 per cent said abrupt lane changes had also increased in the past six months.
Nineteen per cent of respondents said they were involved in a traffic accident in that time, and 24 per cent had received a ticket.
The result also found 51 per cent of respondents enjoyed driving more than they did six months ago, 19 per cent had a shorter commute, and 65 per cent a longer commute.
Building on the road improvements, the next step should focus on drivers’ behaviour, said Dr Britta Lang, head of the British consultancy Transport Research Laboratory in the UAE.
“The results of the survey clearly show that road users perceive and appreciate the improvements on the road infrastructure made by the Government, and that these improvements may be associated with greater enjoyment of driving,” Dr Lang said.
“A good first step would be to introduce a federal highway code associated with a robust education and enforcement programme.”
Mr Dreznes agreed: “Drivers will only change their behaviour if they understand and fear the potentially devastating consequences of their actions and the penalty for being caught if they violate the law.”
The survey was the second in a continuing study of road safety among UAE residents. It will be repeated every six months.