Study aims to take risk out of going to school

Traffic planners and the municipality are 'looking at everything,' and getting world-class advice at a global conference on road safety.

September 7, 2009 / Abu Dhabi / (Rich-Joseph Facun / The National) A group of students from the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Arab Pakistani School cross Street 21 after school lets out, Monday, September 7, 2009 in Abu Dhabi.  *** Local Caption ***  rjf-0907-schoolcrossing007.jpg

ABU DHABI // The journey to the classroom is being made safer. Speaking at a road safety conference here yesterday, Sami al Musawi Bani Hashim, a traffic planning engineer with the municipality, said a project to make school zones less hazardous is under way.

"We are looking at completely surrounding the school areas to improve road safety in these areas," Mr Hashim said on the sidelines of the Road Safety on Four Continents conference, which began yesterday at Yas Hotel. "You can see the school villas, which are not designed to handle this amount of kids every day when there is a shortage of parking, illegal parking and no proper facilities. "We need proper facilities for the school zones. Speed tables, yellow flashers," he said.

The municipality is working with the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) and traffic police on the programme. Last autumn, Adec said it had commissioned a health and safety audit of standards at schools, including pickup and drop-off points for children. Municipal officials did not say when the plans might be introduced. "We are looking at everything," said Rauf Iqbal, a road safety consultant with the municipality, "from as soon as parents leave the school zone area, from the entrance from the main door to the school zone area, how they drop off their children, how they go into the school, come back from the school".

Officials said they hoped to release a manual next month for contractors that will set out appropriate measures to ease traffic in high-density areas. The conference, being attended by road safety experts from around the world, reflects the emphasis UAE traffic officials are putting on road safety, said Nasser al Mansouri, general manager of the National Transport Authority. He said UAE efforts, such as hosting safety conferences, have helped reduce traffic casualties.

In 2009, there were 963 deaths from road accidents, about 10 per cent fewer than 2008. Col Ghaith al Zaabi, head of traffic and co-ordination at the Ministry of Interior, said the conference would also help traffic officials developing road safety strategies. "The presence of all of these experts will provide us with an opportunity to look at their experiences and set strategies, which will highly benefit us in our strategy to reduce the number of road deaths to five per 100,000 people in the next five years," he said.

The road safety conference continues today and concludes tomorrow.