Real-time traffic warnings could reduce accidents

The Ministry of Interior said it will install 70 electronic traffic signs on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai road that will warn of changing road conditions.
The scene of the major accident which took place on Sheikh Zayed Road going towards Dubai from Abu Dhabi. More than one hundred cars were involved. Stephen Lock / The National
The scene of the major accident which took place on Sheikh Zayed Road going towards Dubai from Abu Dhabi. More than one hundred cars were involved. Stephen Lock / The National

ABU DHABI // Real-time electronic warning information of changing road and weather conditions could have prevented one of the UAE’s deadliest crashes seven years ago, experts have said.

Heavy fog on March 11, 2008 led to a pileup of more than 200 vehicles on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai motorway near Ghantoot. Four people were killed, 350 injured and 20 cars caught fire.

The incident has highlighted the need for real-time traffic warnings, driver education and traffic awareness campaigns.

At the launch of the Gulf Traffic Week on Sunday, the Ministry of Interior said it will install 70 electronic traffic signs on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai road that will warn of changing road conditions.

The Variable Message Signs (VMS) will provide live information on traffic congestion, roadblocks, crashes and weather conditions so motorists can change routes or reduce speed.

Brig Hussain Al Harthi, director-general of Abu Dhabi Police’s Traffic and Patrols Directorate, said his department’s project aims to inform drivers via large electronic boards on external roads.

“The cabins can remotely sense the traffic conditions on the road and transmit messages of guidance and warning on any accident or congestion on the road,” he said. “The sensors have the ability to measure visibility distances that drivers may be exposed to during foggy conditions or sandstorms.”

The trend is for improved real-time electronic message signs and electronic variable speed limit signs in areas with frequent congestion, incidents and weather conditions such as fog, said Glenn Havinoviski, a transport expert in Abu Dhabi.

“These should establish that speeds should be lower ahead of the fog condition, and the lower the limit, even temporary, should be enforceable during fog,” he said.

Increasing visibility between vehicles reduces crash risk by over 30 per cent, said Dino Kalivas, the International Road Federation chairman of driver education and training.

“Fog lights and vehicle lighting that switches on due to poor natural light or fog or when conditions have low visibility, could reduce the risk of collisions,” he said. “All new vehicles sold in the UAE should be required to have automated lights,” he said.

Since 2013, the Ministry of Interior and the Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (Esma) have been working to make fog lights mandatory.

“The current lack of fog lights during foggy conditions makes the already hazardous conditions more treacherous,” said Darren Male, 40, a regional health, safety, security and environmental manager at Fugro in Dubai.

“How many large white buses with barely visible tail lights have you come up behind in foggy conditions and narrowly avoided?”

“The mandatory installation of fog lights in all vehicles will not magically solve the problem but will contribute to reduce the occurrence of serious accidents.”

rruiz@thenational.ae

Published: March 10, 2015 04:00 AM

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