Police campaigns pay off as road deaths fall 23%

The emirate's chief traffic policeman credits a 23 per cent decline in road deaths to more patrols, more effective penalties and awareness campaigns.

DUBAI // The emirate's chief traffic policeman credits a 23 per cent decline in road deaths to more patrols, more effective penalties and awareness campaigns educating motorists about the dangers of speeding, tailgating and driving while using mobile phones. The Dubai Police annual traffic report, released on Tuesday, showed that 225 people were killed on the emirate's roads last year, compared with 294 in 2008.

The death rate per 100,000 inhabitants, which takes into account population changes, fell from 17.8 in 2008 to 12.7 last year, the report says. "Our aim is to reduce the death rate by another two people by the end of this year," noted Major Gen Mohammad al Zafein, the director of Dubai Police's traffic department. "We will continue to educate the public on traffic rules and regulations because it has proved an effective tool."

The police said they had organised more than 300 road safety seminars addressing more than 310,000 people last year. The focus this year will be on motorcycles, which traffic officers view as a serious risk on the roads, although the report did not distinguish between deaths involving them and cars. Gen al Zafein said there should be separate lanes for motorcycles. The most dangerous road in Dubai, according to the figures, is Emirates Road with 26 deaths registered in 2009, followed by the Dubai Bypass Road with 17, and the Jebel Ali-Lehbab road, scene of 16 fatalities. The major causes of accidents, accounting for more than half of all deaths, were speeding, sudden swerving and poor judgement by drivers, according to the report. Jumping traffic lights caused 11 deaths and drink-driving killed 13 people.

Gen al Zafein said speeding was still the main cause of serious accidents. "If one was to count all the reasons of collision one would find that speed is always a factor in the majority of the accidents. More than 80 per cent of all the fatal accidents in Dubai are linked in some way to speed," he said. "So, by addressing speed through increased radar surveillance and the black points system, we were able to cut accidents."

Half of the 2.4 million traffic violation fines which were handed out in the emirate last year were speeding fines. The number of speed radars monitoring Dubai's main highways was increased from 210 to 510. Traffic patrols, particularly around schools, are an important way of reducing accidents, according to Gen al Zafein. "When people see patrols on the road they drive more carefully and this has had a direct impact, especially on the reduction on run-over accidents," he said.

"The awareness campaign on safe crossing [also] played an important role in this." While 106 people were hit by vehicles in 2008, the number went down to 70 people last year, the report says. wissa@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Eugene Harnan