Drivers urged to buckle up and put the phone down in 2017

Despite significant investments in road infrastructure and initiatives by the government to raise awareness of traffic safety, drivers’ behaviour remains poor.

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ABU DHABI // Measures to stop drivers using mobile phones when behind the wheel, enforcing speed limits, and a law making child car seats and seat belts for all passengers compulsory are key to safer roads in the UAE this year, experts say.

Despite significant investments in road infrastructure and initiatives by the Government to raise awareness of traffic safety, driver behaviour remains poor.

With the end of 2016, safety experts and driver-education specialists have highlighted the need to address the use of mobile phones while driving, prevent fatal accidents caused by excessive or inappropriate speed, and to introduce laws making it obligatory for drivers and passengers of all vehicles to use seat belts and car seats.

“People cannot put their phones away while driving,” said P M Abdul Razak, assistant manager at Emirates Driving Institute’s instructor training centre. “The use of mobile phones while driving must be strictly banned. Those caught should face stiffer penalties.”

Almost three-quarters of those polled admitted to using their phones while driving, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by Road Safety UAE and QIC Insured in August.

“Mobile phone use and driving poses a major risk to road users in the UAE,” said Dr Britta Lang, UAE country director of Transport Research Laboratory. “Other countries, such as the UK, which has recently increased the fines for mobile phone use when driving, lead the way and demonstrate that this can effectively be addressed.”

At Emirates Driving Institute, those learning are trained to observe and adhere to speed limits. Speeds must also be adapted to the road, traffic, visibility and weather conditions.

“A speeding driver seldom has time to anticipate potential dangerous situations,” Mr Razak said. “One is less likely to perceive hidden traffic risks and react to them appropriately.”

Currently, the law only requires passengers in the front seats to buckle up. However, there have been calls for child seats to be made compulsory and for those in the back-seat to belt up.

Thomas Edelmann, founder of Road Safety UAE, said passengers and children must be protected by a seat-belt law.

“This law must be passed as soon as possible and must be enforced, coupled with a very strong education focus, ideally for all of 2017,” he said.

"We view it as a low-hanging fruit to achieve the Government's UAE Vision 2021: to reduce traffic fatality rates from 5.99 per 100,000 people in 2015 to three by 2021."

Driverless cars could be key to reducing the number of accidents, experts said.

The Dubai Government has set a target of 25 per cent of all journeys by driverless transport by 2030.