Young drivers’ recklessness to blame for ‘majority’ of Abu Dhabi crashes

A study on traffic safety issues in Abu Dhabi has found that majority of car crashes were caused by drivers between the ages of 18 and 30, with many driving at excessive speed and not wearing seat belts.

In Abu Dhabi last year drivers under 35 accounted for 63 per cent of traffic accidents, with ­swerving, tailgating, speeding and recklessness major contributing factors. Pawan Singh / The National
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ABU DHABI // A study on traffic safety issues in Abu Dhabi found that the majority of car crashes were caused by drivers between the ages of 18 and 30, with many driving at excessive speed and not wearing seat belts.

Speeding, running red lights, not paying attention and failure to leave sufficient distance between vehicles were among the main causes of traffic accidents, survey results show. Speeding, particularly at speeds above 100 kilometres an hour, was a contributing factor in 85 per cent of accidents.

The research, by Dr Sharaf Alkheder, a former associate professor of civil engineering at Al Hosn University in Abu Dhabi, looked into witness accounts of drivers and passengers with experience of or involvement in a car crash.

The objective was to get a clear picture and gain a better understanding of the country’s traffic safety problems. The reasons for such accidents, the accident set-up, and impact were covered in the study.

There were 130 Emiratis and expatriates surveyed in Abu Dhabi from November to December 2014. Ages ranged from 18 to 61-plus.

Eighty-nine per cent were drivers, and 11 per cent were passengers at the time of the accident. Seventy-seven per cent of respondents were male, and 23 per cent female.

“Younger drivers are the most affected so there should be well prepared and well designed driver training programmes for them,” said Dr Alkheder, who has since moved to Jordan where he is associate professor of civil engineering at Yarmouk University.

Glenn Havinoviski, a US transport expert, agreed. “Besides an effective driver training programme, it’s important to introduce a culture of traffic enforcement which the youth of the country are not only educated in, but that they experience first-hand if they routinely travel too fast,” he said.

Drivers between 18 and 35 years of age accounted for 63 per cent of all traffic accidents in Abu Dhabi from January to September last year, police statistics show.

Sudden swerving, failure to leave sufficient space between vehicles, speeding without taking into account road conditions, jumping red lights and recklessness were the main causes of crashes.

Among young drivers, young males under the age of 25 years are almost three times as likely to be killed in a car crash as young females, according to the World Health Organisation.

Data on British drivers shows that drivers aged 16 to 19 are more than twice as likely to die in a crash as drivers between 40 and 49.

In the United States, the fatal crash rate per mile driven for 16 to 19-year-olds is nearly three times the rate for drivers aged 20 and over. Risk is highest at ages 16 to 17.

The Abu Dhabi study also found that 30 per cent of the 130 car occupants admitted not wearing their seat belts at the time of the car crash.

Anyone found not wearing a seat belt in the front seat of a car faces a Dh400 fine, and four black points for drivers. There is no law requiring back-seat passengers to wear seat belts.

“I would recommend higher enforcement levels such as camera monitoring based fines to ensure drivers are buckled up,” said Dr Alkheder, who specialises in traffic engineering.

In the study, driving speeds were divided into five categories. The first categories – 20-40kph, 41-60kph and 61-80kph – had the highest percentage of “soft injuries” as compared to “bone injuries”. Sixty-eight per cent had a soft injury, 31 per cent had a bone injury, and only one case of death (1 per cent) was recorded.

The highest percentage of bone injuries were in speed categories above 80kph, comprising about 60 per cent.

“The speed limit needs to be reviewed to reduce the severity of accidents, besides reviewing the safety requirements of vehicles,” Dr Alkheder said.

Sultan bin Zayed the First Street, formerly Muroor Road, which has speed limits ranging from 60kph to 100kph, was identified as the most accident-prone area (19 per cent) in the city.

“Traffic volumes can be reduced by recirculating traffic, reducing the speed limit and number of intersections by replacing them with bridges or tunnels.

The study "Learning from the past: traffic safety in the eyes of affected local community in Abu Dhabi City, UAE" was published in The International Journal of Transportation Research last month.