ABU DHABI // The intersection at Khaleej Al Arabi Street and Defence Road is the capital's most dangerous "black spot", with 19 crashes causing more than 50 injuries last year, according to the Abu Dhabi Traffic and Patrols Directorate.
The directorate's report identifying the most hazardous intersections also showed that most accidents occurred at night and the main cause was drivers jumping the red light.
Other accidents were caused by drivers swerving suddenly or making forced left turns that put other motorists in danger.
The report coincides with the start of the GCC Traffic Week campaign today, which is intended to instil a sense of traffic culture in the community through traffic education programmes in schools, as well as competitions, movies and live car simulators across the emirate.
According to the research consultancy ARRB Group Limited, a review of crash statistics between 2007 and 2009 indicated that sudden manoeuvring was the cause for 20 per cent of all crashes with casualties. That made it the largest single category out of 37 recorded in official statistics by Abu Dhabi Municipality.
"Many of these manoeuvres will be late lane changes by drivers approaching intersections," said John Hughes, the regional manager of ARRB. "This is likely exacerbated by the lack of standardised street name signs, especially the lack of advance street name signs on approaches to major intersections."
The second most dangerous black spot, according to the report, is the junction between 22nd Street and Zayed the First Street, where nine accidents were recorded last year. Almost half of those accidents caused moderate to serious injuries, and all occurred when drivers jumped the red light.
Dr Yaser Hawas, the director of the Roadways, Transportation and Traffic Safety Research Centre at UAE University, said that jumping a red light was often the result of human error. Drivers often came to a "dilemma zone" in the distance before the stop line, as they approached a red light.
"If the signal turns to yellow while the driver is in this zone, the driver faces a dilemma of whether to stop or to pass," he said. "If the yellow time interval is not given adequately, the driver's confusion and dilemma may lead to an inaccurate precise decision that may lead to collision."
"If [the interval] is set too long it will encourage drivers not to respect it, and if it is set too short it will not provide enough time for drivers to pass the intersection. The difference between the too-long or too-short is just a second, or even a fraction of a second."
Experts also suggested adopting a digital clock traffic light system, which counts down the seconds remaining before a light change.
"This would help drivers estimate the distance between them and the intersection and make [better] decisions," said retired Brig Hassan al Hosani, the secretary general at the Emirates Traffic Safety Society.
An intersection in Musaffah was listed as the third-highest crash site, where five accidents were recorded, causing the death of two pedestrians.
Crashes involving pedestrians accounted for between 30 and 40 per cent of all crashes in the UAE, Dr Hawas said. "Reasons could be due to reckless driving, poor visibility or pedestrian errors. Another possible reason could be insufficient speed calming devices at places where there is a high intensity of pedestrian crossings."
The Abu Dhabi 2030 Vision initiative includes a commitment to make the streets safer for pedestrians. The new Urban Street Design Manual, which was announced during the Middle East Road Safety Conference in January, proposes redesigning the capital's infrastructure to make it a pedestrian-friendly city.
A Crash Data Analysis System is currently being introduced in the emirate, said Brig Gen Hassan al Harethi, the head of Abu Dhabi Traffic Police. The system connects the call centre, traffic police and patrol officers to a single database. Patrol officers will have access to the system in their vehicles so they may enter the details of the crash on site. The information will also be accessible to authorities including the Department of Transport and the Health Authority Abu Dhabi.
"This will help us identify the black-spot areas, the reasons behind them and allow us to develop a plan of action specific to each problem," Brig Gen al Harethi said.
The priority was to instil a sense of respect and responsibility among drivers, he said. "A sense of traffic culture should stem from within all motorists. Awareness, education and a respect for the traffic laws are the best [solutions]."