UAE safety experts call for more road patrols

Experts have called for more police patrols combined with faster issuing of tickets to help reduce crashes on the country’s roads, experts say.

ABU DHABI // Experts are calling for more police patrols and swifter traffic penalties to help reduce crashes.

Studies showed that a high-visibility police presence on the streets played a very important role in deterring offences, said Salaheddine Bendak, an associate professor of industrial engineering at the University of Sharjah.

“For instance, some states in the US put unmanned police cars on some roads and highways to remind drivers of their responsibilities in observing traffic rules,” he said.

“There is also the social factor of disapproval from a figure of authority in face-to-face policing, which certainly has an impact on changing road user behaviour for the better,” said Dr Britta Lang, the head of the British consultancy, Transport Research Laboratory, in the UAE.

More police on the roads would mean reckless driving could be detected and stopped, she said.

Devices such as fixed radar points are of limited use, said Thomas Edelmann, founder of Road Safety UAE.

“Motorists get to know their location and the misbehaviour continues before and after those fixed installations,” he said. “Police officers introduce a much-needed element of surprise and unpredictability. They can show up anywhere, at hot spots known for speeding, sudden lane changing, and running red lights.”

Abu Dhabi Police is launching a project called Smart Police Officer, a system that includes e-ticketing for traffic offenders, it was announced at the start of Gulf Traffic Week on March 13.

“The driver will receive a ­notification message about his traffic violation after a few minutes, saying you committed this violation at this location and please drive safely for your own safety,” said Brig Hussain Al Harthi, director-general of central operations at Abu Dhabi Police.

Dr Lang welcomed Abu Dhabi’s new project.

“We know from many studies that human beings learn contingencies between actions and consequences all the better the closer the two are to each other,” she said.

“For example, if I receive a fine for a violation 12 months after I committed it, the likelihood that I associate the violation with the fine is low.

“If I jump a red traffic light and an officer stops me straight away and fines me, this is likely to have a much more powerful effect.”

Emirati Salem Al Suwaidi, 27, who works for the Government, said he would learn about a traffic offence through a text message only one or two weeks after the offence.

“It’s good if we are notified earlier,” he said. “I’m also in favour of more police patrols to keep us safe and to prevent accidents.”

Glenn Havinoviski, associate vice president of the US traffic management company Iteris, said having a notification within 24 or 48 hours would be better than the current system.

“It would be a month or two before he [the offender] learnt about tickets or violations on a rental or lease car,” he said.

“Having a notification within two minutes requires that a verification of licence plate and registration would be needed immediately. Once that verification process is done, then a notification could be provided.”

rruiz@thenational.ae