UAE road safety experts have called for better education and tighter regulations to help clamp down on reckless electric scooter riders who put lives at risk by flouting traffic rules.
Dubai Police last week raised the alarm over the dangers of the irresponsible use of e-scooters and e-bikes across the emirate, as their popularity continues to rise.
The force said five riders had been killed and another 29 injured in accidents involving either e-scooters or e-bikes in the first eight months of the year.
Ignoring traffic lights, not wearing helmets and riding outside of designated zones have been cited as common causes of accidents.
The Dubai government has sought to ensure the safe use of e-scooters in an effort to take cars off the road and reduce emissions.
People who do not have a full driving licence must apply for a free e-scooter permit and pass an online test, available at www.rta.ae.
Riders must be at least 16 and helmets are mandatory.
The e-scooter speed limit is 20kph.
Thomas Edelmann, managing director of Road Safety UAE, called for clarification on where e-scooters are allowed to be used, saying they are often seen outside of designated zones established by authorities.
“RTA [Dubai Roads and Transport Authority] determined 21 zones where e-scooters can be used but we see them everywhere,” he said.
“The regulations must cover all roads, not only the 21 designated areas, and we need to clarity on which infrastructure can be used outside of the designated areas.”
He called for more awareness on safe e-scooter use and said parents have a role to play in educating younger riders.
“We need to raise awareness and educate riders. Parents must play a key role and employers, too. They must raise awareness and educate their staff.
“Overall, we need strong rider education.
“The rules of wearing helmets, lights and reflective vests are well-known but ignored.”
Dr Mostafa Al Dah, an Emirati road safety researcher, has conducted in-depth investigations into more than 300 serious and fatal traffic accidents in the UAE and UK.
He spoke of a lack of awareness of road rules among e-scooter riders.
“It is important for e-scooter users to familiarise themselves with traffic rules, understand signal meanings and learn how to execute turns and navigate safely.
“A significant portion of e-scooter riders lack driving licences and don’t know how to respond to emergencies on the roads.
“They should only use e-scooters in designated areas and paths approved by the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai.”
Putting safety first
He said common causes for fatal accidents were speeding, driving against the flow of traffic and not wearing reflective vests or helmets.
“It is important to make sure there are lights and proper brakes in the e-scooter,” he added.
“Some of them speed and can cause accidents as they lose control.
“Both residents and tourists frequently embark on e-scooter journeys without any prior knowledge of how to operate them safely, particularly when navigating through bustling streets and unfamiliar terrain,” he said.
He added that absence of protective measures on e-scooters, such as seat belts, made it all the more important to exercise caution on the road and keep to the speed limit.
“There are severe consequences of accidents involving e-scooters, which can lead to injuries such as concussion or broken necks when riders exceed speeds of 20kph,” he said. “The human body is not prepared to crash at these speeds.
“There is growing popularity of electric scooters as a convenient and eco-friendly mode of transportation for short-distance travel, but the increasing number of e-scooter accidents remains a cause for concern.”
Police issued more than 10,000 fines to riders breaking safety rules in the first eight months of the year.
Maj Gen Saif Al Mazroui, director of Dubai Police's traffic department, said the statistics emphasised the need to tackle reckless riders.
He called on the public to adhere to safety regulations when using the electric vehicles, such as using specific paths, adhering to speed limits and wearing helmets.
A helmet could be difference between life and death
A leading doctor in Dubai has urged anyone riding an e-scooter to make sure they take the necessary precautions.
“Helmets can dramatically reduce the risk of serious head injuries by over 50 per cent, so making the effort to wear a helmet each time you ride will guarantee a safer scooting experience,” said Dr Ali Ganai, specialist in emergency medicine and sport medicine at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital, Dubai.
“It is always better to be safe than fashionable.
“Electric scooter riders are more likely to suffer from concussions, skull fractures and sever head injuries which can lead to severe disabilities, and in some cases death, which could be prevented by wearing a helmet.”