High-speed blowout kills five Emiratis

Officers say young men not wearing seat belts were thrown from a speeding 4x4 when it overturned.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - June 7, 2009: Traffic Police Officer, Mohammed Al Mazrouei inspects a truck for legal tires, reflective stickers, insurance, valid driver's license, and license plates, in part of an ongoing campaign to make increase safety on the roads of Abu Dhabi. 
( Ryan Carter / The National ) *** Local Caption ***  RC003-TruckInspection.JPGRC003-TruckInspection.JPG
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Abu Dhabi // Five young Emirati men who died when a tyre blow-out caused their 4x4 to roll over were in a speeding vehicle and were not wearing seat belts, police said yesterday. Following the accident in al Gharbia (Western Region), police renewed their pleas to motorists to be safety-conscious and, in particular, to check tyres more regularly during the summer when the heat affects pressures and accelerates wear.

"Everybody needs to take care of their tyres," said Major Ahmed al Shamsi, director of the Western Region's traffic police department. "With the weather now, maybe we will see other cases in the future, so everybody has to take care of his life and his family's life." The men, from Ras al Khaimah and Dibba, were all in their early 20s. They were returning from Syria on Friday evening when the Land Cruiser overturned in Tarif, police said.

Major al Shamsi said a blow-out was the main cause of the crash, which occurred during a three-month campaign by Abu Dhabi Police to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads with dangerously worn tyres. The campaign was organised for the summer as heated roads increase the risk of blow-outs. The car was being driven at high speed, which contributed to the driver losing control, said Major al Shamsi. None of the five occupants was wearing a seat belt, which could have saved them from being thrown from the vehicle, he added.

Two men died at the scene and three died later in Al Marfa Hospital. Police did not release their names. "The driver was driving at too much speed and, when the tyre blew up, he could not handle the car," said Major al Shamsi. "If they had been wearing seat belts maybe they would have had a chance. Everyone was thrown from the car. Four people died and 46 were injured in more than 25 accidents caused by tyre blow-outs in Abu Dhabi during the first half of the year, according to police.

Last year, 22 people died and 238 were injured across the UAE in 264 accidents linked to worn or damaged tyres, or replaced tyres left on the road. "If anything happens to a tyre, everybody must change it for their safety. Don't lose your life trying to save money," said Major al Shamsi. The first month of Abu Dhabi Police's tyre campaign, launched in May, saw 7,332 fines handed out for vehicles, both light and heavy, with unsafe tyres, including 802 fines over three days. Thousands more drivers have been fined this month.

Vehicles whose tyres do not meet safety standards can be confiscated for a week. Owners face fines of Dh200 (US$54) for small vehicles and Dh500 for heavy vehicles, in addition to six black points. Ras al Khaimah is running its own campaign against worn-out tyres. Reports say police have fined hundreds of motorists and impounded dozens of lorries since June. Experts joined the call yesterday for people to educate themselves about safety standards for tyres.

A tyre more than three years old would get a driver fined, said Saleem Akhdar, manager for technical services at the tyre company Abu Dhabi Bridgestone, a partner in the police campaign. "If a tyre is older than three years, no matter how new it looks, it should not be used," Mr Akhdar said. He added that second-hand tyres were unsafe for the road. Mr Akhdar said drivers should be wary if their steering wheel or seats vibrated as this could indicate that the tyre rims were in poor condition.

He also advised motorists to check the tread depths of their tyres. The legal minimum depth for 4x4 vehicles is 2.4mm, while for saloon cars it is 1.6mm and for lorries 3.2mm. mchung@thenational.ae hhassan@thenational.ae