Bridge plan aimed at saving lives

Police officers say they want more pedestrian flyovers to combat the dangers of crossing the road as a clampdown on jaywalking is launched.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - July 2, 2008: Labour workers cross 8 lanes of traffic on highway 11, near Al Raha Mall. ( Ryan Carter / The National ) *** Local Caption ***  RC002-Jaywalk.JPGna04 jaywalk1.JPG
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ABU DHABI // More pedestrian bridges could be added to roads both within and outside city limits to reduce the growing number of people who are struck by vehicles. At the launch of a three-month campaign to tackle jaywalking yesterday, Col Hamad al Shamsi, director of the police's traffic and patrols department, said the department was looking at adding pedestrian bridges in more areas, including Mussafah and Shahama.

The colonel said the bridges were expected to be built in the coming years, although he could not give an exact date. The department has also asked the municipality to place barriers on pavements where pedestrians tend to jaywalk. The number of pedestrians hit by vehicles in Abu Dhabi grew to 663 last year, up from 583 in 2007. Yesterday the traffic department revealed it had issued Dh802,000 (US$218,000) worth of tickets since the start of this year, with 4,010 jaywalkers fined Dh200 each. Last year the fine for jaywalking was increased from Dh50.

Col al Shamsi said the department's studies covered areas that lacked pedestrian crossings and were considered hot spots for accidents involving pedestrians. Meanwhile, traffic police are focusing on educating the public on the rules for crossing roads and the dangers of jaywalking by increasing campaigns to fine jaywalkers. Patrols will be carried out by both traffic control police officers and undercover traffic officers.

"We have to consider the culture and background of pedestrians and make sure we get our message across," said Col al Shamsi. "After last year's campaign the number of accidents involving pedestrians dropped rapidly." He said pedestrians involved in accidents who were found to be jaywalking were liable to be fined. Lt Col Ahmad al Shehhi, director of capital traffic police, said patrols would focus on hot spots including Mussafah, Shahama, Al Dhafra Road, the Corniche and Al Salam Street. "It is not possible to have a policeman on every road in every corner, so we assess which areas are the most dangerous."

In the coming three months more police patrols will be dedicated to catching jaywalkers. "We asked the municipality to place barriers on the pavements, especially in front of shops and public parks, to prevent people from crossing in areas where they are not supposed to," said Col al Shamsi. Brochures outlining the rules in Arabic and English are to be handed to pedestrians and motorists. One reminds pedestrians to look for the nearest subway or bridge before crossing the road, and to wait for the green pedestrian light before crossing at traffic lights.

Another brochure explains to motorists that white stripes across the road are pedestrian crossings and that priority should be given to pedestrians to allow them to cross. The fine for not giving priority to pedestrians to cross is Dh500 and six black points.