Theyab Awana teammate: 'No SMS or call is worth my life'

Teammates of Theyab Awana, the footballer who died after crashing his car into a lorry while reportedly using his BlackBerry, are talking to students about safe driving habits.

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ABU DHABI //The Baniyas teammates of Theyab Awana, the midfielder who died in a car crash while reportedly using a BlackBerry, have told hundreds of students how their driving habits have changed.
Awana, 21, was killed after his car slammed into the rear of a lorry in Abu Dhabi on September 25.

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Thamer Mohammed and Sultan Ali Al Ghafri have joined the Yasalam Road Safety campaign with other Emirati athletes, artists, police and road-safety experts to give students a frank picture of reckless driving.

Today, the campaign will reach students at the Masdar Institute and Cambridge High School in Abu Dhabi.

"Losing Theyab was extremely shocking to us all," Al Ghafri said last week as part of the campaign. "It has changed how I drive and how I act on the road, even how I look at life and how I act.

"I now think of my family and friends and of how precious life is. No SMS or call is worth my life. We keep hearing about car accidents and people dying, and this needs to stop.

"People need to understand the importance of seat belts and not using the phone while driving."

It was the first public address from the teammates, who spoke about the role passengers can play in promoting safe driving, the dangers of speeding and the importance of wearing seat belts and not using a phone.

"We want to help the youth understand the risks of driving while on the phone or texting," Mohammed said.

"His death affected all the community and we want his passing to be a lesson to others.

"We know it is God's will but we would like to advise our community and youth. His death affected me on so many levels. I personally now think differently about driving, and am more careful and aware."

In the weeks since Awana's death, Emirati footballers say they have felt it is their national duty to speak out and reach students.

The Yas Marina Circuit Formula Gulf 1000 driver Mohammad Al Mutawa has also thrown his support behind the campaign, named Yasalam Responsibly.

The initiative began on October 10 and continues until November 13 as part of Yasalam Live Across the City.

Fahed Al Ali, who has played for Al Ain and the UAE national team, said safe driving must be a national priority.

"If you truly love your country, then you need to protect its citizens and yourself, as you are its future," Mr Al Ali said. "We recently lost a talented football player and that is a tragedy by itself that should make everyone think.

"I drive very safely on the roads of the UAE as I know race driving has its place.

"I want to tell all young people that their lives are the most important thing . concentrate while you drive. Your phone calls and messages can wait."