Road-safety expert offers ways to make UAE roads safer for pedestrians and drivers

Michael Dreznes has offered a number of countermeasures to make UAE roads safer for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users, which account for 30 per cent of fatalities on UAE roads.

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ABU DHABI // A US road safety expert has offered the UAE a number of recommendations to help reduce road fatalities.

Cutting speed, drivers understanding pedestrian behaviour and improving infrastructure are among the ideas put forward by Michael Dreznes.

He has offered countermeasures to make UAE roads safer for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

Vulnerable road users, which also include cyclists, motorbike riders and non-motorised transportation, account for 30 per cent of fatalities on UAE roads, according to the 2015 World Health Organisation global status report.

“Travelling speeds in areas where pedestrians are interacting with vehicles must be reduced and those speeds must be properly enforced,” Mr Dreznes said. “A pedestrian impacted by a car at 30kph has about a 10 per cent chance of dying. That same pedestrian struck by a car at 64kph has about a 90 per cent chance of death.”

City and rural planners must understand how pedestrians are using the roads to make sure their safety is a priority, he said.

“If an additional lane is added to a road, will pedestrians still be able to cross that road safely? Is a pedestrian overpass or a pedestrian-activated traffic signal justified? Do the pedestrians have footpaths that are segregated from the travelled way?” he said.

In multi-lane roads, the infrastructure should give pedestrians enough time to cross safely.

“Should pedestrian refuges be added to allow the pedestrian to cut the crossing of the road in half?” he asked. “Another engineering solution would be ‘central hatching’, where the median is increased and the lanes are narrowed.”

Pedestrian safety programmes for children that are then reinforced to everyone through public-awareness campaigns are also needed, Mr Dreznes said.

“A very simple rule is to always walk facing traffic and not in the direction of traffic to give them a chance to see an oncoming errant vehicle and take evasive actions to avoid being hit,” he said. “Pedestrians also should wear light-coloured clothes so they can be seen at night.”

Enforcement, he said, is the only way to stop dangerous activities such as uncontrolled stops by buses, illegally parked vehicles that may force pedestrians to walk in the road and pedestrians distracted by their mobile phones.

Mr Dreznes, who is the executive vice-president of the International Road Federation (IRF), is inviting road agency executives and design engineers from the UAE to participate in a vulnerable road user safety course in Doha from February 7 to 9.

IRF has teamed up with the Qatar Transportation and Traffic Centre at Qatar University for a series of training programmes.

“Road authorities and design engineers can learn new technologies and best practices, concepts and designs and put them into practice,” he said.

In recent years the UAE’s road authorities have made improvements for crossing facilities and speed management solutions in urban areas, said Simon Labbett, project director at Sheida, an Omani road safety body.

Median fences, footbridges, mid-block signals, speed humps and speed zone control markings are being installed across the UAE. Twelve bridges are being built in Abu Dhabi to ensure safety for pedestrians while maintaining traffic flow.

“What still needs to be done is continually raise awareness of the dangers of the road for drivers and vulnerable road users,” Mr Labbett said.

Children who travel in cars without being properly restrained are among the most vulnerable road users, he said.

“Perhaps the biggest step still to be achieved is government regulation for the mandatory use of child restraints and rear passenger seat belts,” said Mr Labbett, a former head of UK consultancy Transport Research Laboratory UAE.

“It would need to be linked with an educational programme supported by a high-profile enforcement campaign.”

rruiz@thenational.ae