ABU DHABI // Young drivers need to concentrate more on the road and not pick up their phones when behind the wheel.
That is the message youngsters hope to get across to their peers as part of Aqdar Drive Safely, a student-driven project launched on Monday by Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.
Students taking part in the Khalifa Empowerment Student Programme, or Aqdar, partnered with Road Safety UAE and Nissan Middle East in a campaign to instil safety in young drivers.
This year’s theme is on the Use of Mobile Phones while Driving.
“Sheikh Saif’s presence today and his support is vital to the programme’s success,” said Samir Cherfan, managing director at Nissan Middle East.
Young drivers were responsible for more than half of all road accidents in the UAE in the last nine months of 2015, Ministry of Interior statistics show. This age group accounted for more than a quarter of fatalities.
Mobile phone use has been identified as a major cause of car accidents, especially serious ones, among this age group.
It is necessary to develop long-term programmes focused on the importance of complying with traffic safety rules, organisers said. “Manufacturers cannot do it alone, so government and professional support are key,” Mr Cherfan said.
Thomas Edelmann, founder of Road Safety UAE, said mobile phone use is dangerous because of its potential for causing distracted driving and accidents.
“About 92 per cent of UAE’s youth state that they are distracted by their own behaviour,” he said. “However, only about 38 per cent see the complete link between distracted driving and causing accidents, and this needs to be overcome,” he said, referring to a YouGov survey commissioned by Road Safety UAE and QIC Insured in August.
Almost three quarters of those polled admitted using their phones while driving.
As part of the Aqdar initiative, university students are invited to take part in a road safety competition. It has three categories: Road Safety Campaign of the Year, Road Safety Mobile Phone App of the Year, and Road Safety Sculpture of the Year.
The first-prize winner in each category receives Dh30,000, while the second and third-prize winners get Dh10,000 and Dh5,000 respectively.
Student submissions will be judged on sustainability, style, reach and effectiveness. The deadline for submissions is April 30. Guidelines can be found on aqdardrivesafely.com
To help encourage people into the scheme, Nissan is also encouraging the public to pledge to stop using phones while driving on the programme website or during their roadshows across the UAE. Pledgers will have their photos showcased on a fleet of Nissan vehicles participating in the roadshow.