ABU DHABI // Proper time management, better driving etiquette and increasing seat-belt use are needed to tackle reckless driving and cut the number of crashes, experts say.
These three changes would “dramatically improve UAE’s road safety and the human toll we pay”, said Thomas Edelmann, the founder and managing director of Road Safety UAE, which is into its second year of campaigning.
People running late “can lead to misbehaviour in the form of speeding, jumping queues and red lights, lane swerving, tailgating and bullying other traffic participants”, Mr Edelmann said.
“Hence, we have to call on motorists to start applying proper time management, for example, by starting every road trip 10 minutes early,” he said.
Journey planning is an important and often neglected element of road safety, said Dr Britta Lang, the new head of British consultancy Transport Research Laboratory in the UAE.
“People often jump in their cars at the last minute and the stress and fear of being late may push them to exceed the speed limit,” she said. “People often arrive at their destination more stressed, they might have been fined for speeding but are most likely still late.”
Lateness accounts for the majority of speeding on UAE roads, according to a YouGov survey released in October.
Sixty-seven per cent of 1,005 residents polled said they speeded because they were running late, 53 per cent for fun or to impress others, and 45 per cent out of habit.
“Road etiquette and politeness play a pivotal role,” Mr Edelmann said. “Motorists must treat others like they want to be treated, in the same respectful and polite manner.”
Driving culture or etiquette – or a lack of – is another factor that often makes driving in the UAE more stressful.
“Aggressive driving, such as close following (tailgating), flashing one’s lights, overtaking on the hard shoulder or cutting in are behaviours that you can frequently observe on UAE’s roads and they carry the risk of increased likelihood of a crash,” said Dr Lang, who has 15 years of experience in traffic psychology and is working with government and the private sector in the UAE and GCC.
Fifty-three per cent of 1,000 residents polled in a YouGov survey last year said the country’s roads have become more hazardous. Two-thirds of respondents said they have seen more speeding vehicles. Sixty-five per cent reported an increase in tailgating, and 75 per cent reported seeing a rise in distracted driving in the period.
“Forty-five to 60 per cent of fatalities can be prevented by the use of seatbelts, but many UAE motorists turn a blind eye to those well-known facts,” Mr Edelmann said.
Seat-belt compliance remains the easiest and most effective measure, said Dr Lang.
“Without laws in place, it is very difficult to enforce safe behaviour, and education alone will not suffice to change behaviour,” Dr Lang said.
More needs to be done to reduce distraction and to create a consensus that driving while on the phone is unacceptable, she said.
“Smartphones are ubiquitous, providing useful information at the click of a button,” she said. “However, there is body of evidence that shows how big a risk mobiles are to road safety.”