A police campaign to ensure there are no accidents on the UAE’s roads next Sunday is timely and welcome, road safety experts have said.
The new school term begins on September 2, bringing more cars and buses on to already clogged routes across the UAE.
Three people died and scores were injured on the country's roads during the first week of the new term last year, police said.
Now, the Dubai Police “day without traffic accidents” campaign aims to put an end to these preventable deaths.
Motorists are being encouraged to take part by registering on Dubai Police’s website. There they can pledge to buckle up, respect speed limits and give pedestrians the right of way. Those who register will receive a certificate of participation and could also win prizes.
Thomas Edelmann, founder of RoadSafetyUAE, said anything that raised awareness about road safety was to be welcomed.
“There is a lot of egocentric behaviour where people think they have all the rights. But the bottom line is that we have to treat others how we would want to be treated,” said Mr Edelmann. “Parents have to be role models for our children.”
In the UAE, road injuries are one of the leading causes of death for children. Two out of every three fatally injured children die due to road traffic crashes, according to government statistics.
In terms of safety around schools, Mr Edelmann said it starts with time management. If your child starts school at 8am, then arrange to be there for 7:40am. Efforts must also be made to reduce the amount of traffic around schools. This could mean car-pooling or allowing children to take the bus.
“The bus is under-utilised in the UAE when compared with other countries,” said Mr Edelmann. “Some statistics put occupancy at about 50 per cent. This would take a lot of cars off the road.”
Around the school therefore, it's important to follow instructions on where to park, help children get out safely and use designated crossings. Bus drivers also have an important role. In June, a school bus driver in Abu Dhabi had his permit revoked after he failed to stop at a sign and endangered a child, while in May tailgating was blamed when four pupils were injured in a traffic accident between cars and a school bus.
Drivers can face a Dh1,000 fine and 10 black points if they don’t stop when the bus sign is on. If a school bus driver fails to display the stop sign or follow rules then they could face a Dh500 fine and six black points. If a driver accrues 24 black points, then they lose their licence for three months but they can can also apply to go back to training school to avoid this loss.
The Indian High School in Dubai has more than 11,000 pupils, 160 buses and three campuses.
“Safety is 100 per cent important – we don’t compromise on this,” said Sunil Shetye, the school’s transport manager.
"Some seats are kept available to make sure the buses are not overcrowded."
The driver and conductor of every bus are trained in safety procedures by the Roads and Transport Authority. A number of pupils on each bus are also trained in how to open the emergency window and enforcing rules such as no standing while the bus is moving. Drivers and conductors must also know basic first aid, while a few seats on each bus are kept open to ensure there is no overcrowding, he said.
If the Dubai Police campaign to eliminate traffic accidents on September 2 is successful, then it could become an annual event.
For more information or road safety tips visit www.roadsafetyuae.com