Almost one in five motorists in the UAE have been involved in a traffic collision in the last six months, according to a survey that charts growing concern at how little attention drivers are paying to the road.
The UAE Road Safety Monitor - which measured perception among drivers - found they believe there has been a rise in the number of motorists who are distracted at the wheel, which many put down to mobile phone use.
The survey by YouGov also found that 59 per cent of respondents said they had seen an increase in speeding on the roads, up from 48 per cent just six months ago.
Despite those findings, drivers believe the roads are safer than they were in 2015, when the first Safety Monitor was carried out.
Frederik Bisbjerg, executive vice president of retail with i-Insured, which also commissioned the survey, said: “Perception counts and we have seen a strong correlation between the research findings and the recorded number of accidents and fatalities.
“Hence, this unique perception study provides valuable feedback about the impact of the involved stakeholders’ efforts aimed at increasing road safety.”
The YouGov survey was conducted in September, based on responses from 1,016 residents across the UAE.
It was published a day after Serco Middle East's annual road safety event, which heard of plans to make drivers sit the same test across the Emirates instead of have seven different systems, as is the case at present.
The event also heard calls from transport experts to abolish the system that allows many motorists to automatically acquire a UAE licence when they arrive, without having to sit a test.
Despite the bad habits and broader issues identified in the new survey, the results have shown a general improvement in recent years.
When the survey was first conducted in 2015, 58 per cent said they believed the roads in the UAE were becoming more dangerous - compared to 40 per cent in last month's poll. And while the number of drivers who said fellow motorists are distracted stood at 75 per cent in the first survey, that has fallen by six per cent.
Transport experts said the survey, which is conducted every six months, puts road safety sharply into focus.
“Drivers have to take the initiative for themselves. It is not the responsibility of their companies or the government or anybody else for that matter,” said Laura Kelly, assurance director of Serco Middle East, which runs Dubai Metro along with public and private sector buildings in the UAE.
“People have to look at their own behaviour and think about why they are distracted, driving aggressively or speeding.”
She said the survey’s results tally with internal research, carried out by Serco, that identified a number of key areas where improvement was needed.
“In Dubai we have a bustling city with people from so many different cultures trying to get to where they need to be,” she said.
“It is understandable there is a risk with that many cars on the roads, we need to conduct ourselves in a way that keeps everyone safe.”
Serco Middle East has promoted road safety among its 4,500 staff, and the wider public, after two of its minibuses were involved in serious road accidents three years ago.
“Minibus safety was a major focus for a long time but we are seeing that has become less of an issue now that particular message is getting across,” she said.
“Instead we see new trends and challenges emerging, when it comes to road safety, and one of these is personal responsibility.
“As an organisation we have got to adapt to that and learn from surveys such as this one. It can help us to be proactive and not allow this behaviour to continue,” said Ms Kelly.
Thomas Edelmann, managing director of RoadSafetyUAE, spoke about the significance of the survey’s findings.
“We applaud the authorities’ continued efforts in further improving the road infrastructure, but unfortunately, we see all dimensions of reckless driving, namely in distracted driving, lane swerving, speeding and tailgating,” he said.
“In contrast, we observe positive trends for further improved infrastructure.”