Road traffic deaths in Saudi Arabia are more than five times higher than in the UAE, officials have revealed.
Authorities blamed the statistics on reckless driving, overladen vehicles and the risk of hitting animals — particularly camels — on highways.
Addressing a conference in Dubai, officials said most accidents in the Saudi kingdom occurred at busy intersections.
Meanwhile, experts from the Emirates said the introduction of a compulsory seat belt law in the UAE had proved critical in decreasing road fatalities.
“We’re talking to people in schools, mosques and malls to tell them how dangerous it can be if they’re not driving safely,” said Mohammed Alabood, Saudi Arabia’s general manager of road safety.
“There were 195 fatalities in Saudi Arabia last year caused by exploding tyres and many of them were caused by heavy loads in the car.
“In some cases, tyre pressures were set to withstand the weight of four people when there were 10 people in the car.”
National Editorial: Reckless drivers should be exposed and dealt with
Mr Alabood made his remarks at a summit in the Emirates organised by the pressure group Road Safety UAE.
He said statistics for this year showed road traffic deaths in the Emirates stood at 4.4 per 100,000 people, compared with 26 deaths per 100,000 in Saudi Arabia.
Despite the high number, however, Mr Alabood said traffic fatalities in Saudi were coming down.
Figures showed there were 13,221 road fatalities in the kingdom in 2018, a 33 per cent drop on the 17,632 killed the year before.
“The Saudi Vision 2030 requires us to get that number down to eight deaths per 100,000 population,” he said.
Mr Alabood went on to describe further efforts being made by Saudi Arabia to bring road fatalities down.
He said careful attention was being paid to how other countries addressed the issue and that officials were preparing to spend close to Dh3 billion on safety initiatives.
“We are taking the best examples from other countries such as the US, the UK and Australia and shaping our own model.
“This [the cost of traffic safety programmes] will be a small price to pay for all the lives we are planning to save.”
Thomas Edelmann, managing director of Road Safety UAE, said mandatory seat belts were the overriding factor behind the UAE’s comparatively low figures.
“The introduction of the holistic seat belt law in July of last year was a huge achievement,” he said.
“It was not just a law forcing people to wear seat belts that was introduced on July 1 last year, there were a lot of refinements made to existing laws which has helped to make a difference as well.”
These changes included the introduction of higher fines for speeding and reckless driving as well as laws prohibiting drivers from using their phones while driving
The UAE government has to take a lot of the credit for the levels of road safety here compared to other countries in the region, said Mr Edelmann.
The UAE has set a target of having only 3 deaths per 100,000 people by 2021.
In 2017 there were 525 fatalities on UAE roads, a dramatic improvement on the 1072 people who died in 2008.
“Compared to other countries in the region, we have a much higher willingness from the government to have the right laws in place and then enforcing them,” he said.
“The road network in the UAE is second to none. Other countries in the region have great highways but the roads off them are very bad. That is something the UAE does not suffer from.
“The UAE government is doing a great job when it comes to providing safe roads.”