Chevron road markings could reduce tailgating in the UAE, experts say

Call for authorities to introduce chevron markings on UAE's motorways so drivers know how much distance should be between them and the car in front.

Experts hope chevrons will teach drivers to maintain safe distances, unlike these vehicles on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National
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Visual reminder of safe gap to car in front

Road markers set up to indicate minimum distance to other vehicles have been shown to reduce accidents in the UK and the US

ABU DHABI // White chevron markings on roads that indicate the minimum distance there should be between vehicles could be introduced in the UAE to reduce crashes caused by tailgating, experts say.

“Several states in the United States and European countries have implemented this measure on pilot corridors and observed a drop in tailgating and speeding in the areas of the chevrons,” said Mike Dreznes, executive vice-president at the International Road Federation in the US.

“Interestingly, research indicates that the benefits continue well beyond the chevron-marked stretch.”

There was a 56 per cent reduction in crashes at chevron sites in the UK compared with the same stretch of road before the markings were installed, according to a study by a British consultancy, Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).

“The placement of chevrons has been used by road authorities in the UK predominantly where there were collision hot spots and evidence of multiple-vehicle collisions,” said Simon Labbett, regional director of TRL.

“They were shown to be an effective means of reducing crashes and increasing the gaps between vehicles, but also with effect lasting far beyond the area of the chevrons.”

Chevrons are painted on the road surface and a driver must keep two in view between his vehicle and the vehicle in front. “The spacing of the markers is based on the speed of the road and is linked to maintaining a two-second gap between vehicles,” Mr Labbett said. “The faster the road speed, the bigger the gap will be required between the painted markers.”

Motorists who are driving too close to the car in front are visibly reminded by the chevrons that they should keep their distance. And they would also help police to identify and prosecute drivers that drive in such a way, Mr Labbett said.

Khaled Al Mansoori, vice chief executive at Emirates Driving Company, said chevron markings in the UAE could be beneficial.

“We tell drivers to leave at least three seconds between their vehicle and the one in front of them, but an alarmingly large number of people aren’t aware of how much that distance actually is,” he said. “Measurement becomes easier and more visual with these chevron markings.”

In Abu Dhabi, there were 63 traffic-related deaths in the first three months of this year, compared with 88 in the same period last year.

Most fatal accidents were caused by drivers tailgating, swerving, speeding in unstable road conditions, not giving priority to pedestrians crossing roads, and burst tyres, according to police.

“Tailgating is one of the most distinctive characteristics of driving in the UAE,” said Glenn Havinoviski, a transport expert. “It is far worse in the UAE than I have seen elsewhere, particularly on high-speed roads.”

In Dubai, there was a 40 per cent rise in the number of deaths resulting from tailgating last year compared with 2012.

“One of the reasons that drivers follow too closely to the vehicle in front is the failure of drivers to have any lane discipline,” Mr Labbett said.

“If chevron markings were to be implemented, specific locations would have to be identified where tailgating is a significant issue, particularly on high volume roads,” Mr Havinoviski said. “The E11 would be the logical location but they need to be applied in tailgating locations,” he said. “Repeated markings and signs may lose their impact if they are put everywhere.”

Iftekhar Ahmed, a Canadian engineer in Abu Dhabi, said he was impressed with the use of chevrons on the motorway in the UK, where his son attends university.

“While drivers follow the two-second rule based on the reaction of the driver, it is not the same for everyone,” he said. “We need something more scientific, such as chevrons, to avoid tailgating on motorways.”

But chevron markings alone will not eliminate tailgating, Mr Labbett said.

“Together with other education and enforcement measures, they form an effective tool to change driver behaviour,” he said.