ABU DHABI // Zebra crossings are intended to give pedestrians the right of way, but these are often ignored by drivers who zoom past without stopping, Abu Dhabi residents say.
Pedestrians should wait for motorists to give them priority at these designated crossings, which have amber flashing lights.
“When moneyed people get behind the wheel, they forget about others, particularly the pedestrians,” said Iftekhar Ahmed, a Bangladeshi-born Canadian electrical engineer.
“Taxi drivers also do not take notice of the rules. They do not reduce their speed or slow down at zebra crossings.”
The Abu Dhabi Police Traffic and Patrols Directorate should distribute awareness booklets to drivers when they register their vehicles as part of its ongoing traffic safety programme, said Mr Ahmed, 56. He first moved to the UAE in 1995 and migrated to Canada in 2004. He returned to the UAE in 2007 and works at an Abu Dhabi Government company as a service engineer.
“I’ve got a defensive driving certificate from the Canada Safety Council and I’m really concerned about pedestrians and their safety here in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
“Through my LinkedIn profile, I’ve launched an awareness project on this issue.”
The authorities could consider sending out flyers to drivers and pedestrians, and imposing tougher fines on reckless drivers, he said.
Pupils in Grade 9 to 12 should be encouraged to participate in a child pedestrian safety awareness campaign.
Cyril Kumar recently used the pedestrian crossing on Hamdan Street after an early morning jog on the Corniche. The driver of a white saloon car slowed and allowed him and five others to cross.
“I think seven out of 10 drivers are reducing their speed and stopping to allow pedestrians to cross,” said Mr Kumar, 48, a senior medical technologist. “The drivers need to be alert and respect pedestrians but pedestrians should also be careful when they cross the road.”
Mr Kumar, who has lived in the UAE for 12 years, said median fences, a pedestrian underpass or an overpass should be built on Muroor Road between Hamdan and Electra streets to prevent people from jaywalking.
“There is a zebra crossing across from the Gifts Tower, but drivers often speed up as they approach the traffic signal near the intersection,” he said.
For his part, Mr Ahmed said there was a need to upgrade the conventional type of pedestrian crossings by installing speed humps, or raised devices designed to slow traffic.
At the junction of Muroor Road and Hazza bin Zayed Street (11th street), the right lane has a designated zebra crossing and a flashing amber light. However, it does not have a pedestrian crossing caution sign.
“Abu Dhabi Police, the Department of Transport and Abu Dhabi Municipality should verify if all lanes for turning right are properly equipped with amber light fittings and pedestrian crossing signs,” Mr Ahmed said.
“Two of the four amber light fittings at the junction of Muroor Road and Electra Street aren’t working.”
Two major factors contribute to accidents, said Ibrahim Al Hmoudi, transport planning department manager at the Urban Planning Council. These are road design – which causes 20 per cent of accidents – and driver behaviour.
“With the ongoing implementation of the urban street design manual guidelines, we address road design elements and are working closely with Abu Dhabi Police and the Department of Municipal Affairs to participate in enforcing education to impact driver behaviour,” Mr Al Hmoudi said.
“The key concerned government agencies are closely working together with the common objective to reduce traffic accidents and pedestrian-related injuries.”
The number of pedestrian deaths dropped last year, from 80 to 67 – an improvement for the third consecutive year, according to a Department of Transport report.