Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How to stop the road carnage?

Five deaths in one accident, making ten in five days have yet again highlighted the danger of Dubai's roads.

At the end of my earlier post about it I said: We keep talking about it, we keep saying the obvious, that action must be taken but the crashes and the fires keep happening.

And more and more people continue to needlessly, and avoidably, lose their lives.

A couple of comments on the post continued the thought:

Jad Aoun said...
Honestly, this is getting really ridculous. How many people must die, how many accidents must we see before the police become more proactive? Police action here is very reactive. With the opening of Garhoud Bridge, it was easily predicted that cars would come flying down the new overpass from Deira. All they did was put up signs warning motorists that the road is 'monitored' and the speed limit is 80. Try traveling at 80 and you'll get knocked off the road by speeding cars until they reach the speed camera near Wafi. Its a complete joke - cameras and patrols need to be out in greater force. Its still a breeze to speed without getting caught.

dave said...
Agree with jad aoun, it seems that the carnage is endless, and the measures by the RTA & Police are clearly not working. Coupled to this is the lack of educational campaigns, it seems that increased penalties are the only measure that the Govt understands how to implement.
This is yet another tragedy of the loss of innocent lives in the UAE.

I couldn't aqree more with Jad Aoun and Dave. The authorities are reactive, minor penalties seem to be the only measure being taken.

It all seems to me to be out of control. Time goes by, more and more people are killed, nothing changes. Nothing happens to stop it.

I don't believe in complaining for the sake of it, I believe in constructive criticism.

So what do I think the authorities should be doing?

Well, the task is massive because the entire road/driving/licensing/training/vehicle testing situation needs revamping.

It's almost a case of starting again as far as I can see and briefly the basic points I think need addressing are these.

All residents wanting a licence should have to pass a local driving test. No more giving of licences based on an existing overseas licence.

We need very much better driving instructors, with strict requirements on qualifications. It's also essential that they have sufficient experience of local roads and driving conditions. We need a Highway Code, printed in all the necessary languages, which must be learnt and would be tested as part of the licence examination.

Drivers of heavy goods vehicles and those transporting passengers need special attention, with stricter testing and regular retesting.

We need many more traffic police out on the streets, highly trained and qualified, in marked and unmarked vehicles. One simple thing that would help immediately would be to get rid of the need to call the cops for every accident. They have to be called out for the slightest damage to a vehicle, which ties up a huge amount of their time. So sorting out the insurance reason behind this is a must.

All vehicles need to be tested regularly for roadworthiness, with special attention given to heavy goods vehicles and passenger transport, which need to be tested more frequently than private vehicles. Consideration should also be given to installing speed limiters in these vehicles.

Checks are needed on driving patterns of HGV and passenger vehicles, the hours worked, kilometres driven. Taxi drivers are included in this, there are too many stories of taxi drivers falling asleep at the end of a dangerously long shift. The EU regulations would be a good starting point for the policy.

The roads themselves contribute to the problem. Check out the traffic in cities like Cairo, Delhi - chaotic, do whatever you like, every man for himself...they get away with it because the choked traffic moves very slowly. In Dubai the driving is the same but at speeds of way over 100kph. So we're back to driver training to cope with the big, wide, flat, racetrack roads.

It's too late to change the confusing combination of US & UK road systems, but there are measures which would make them a little less dangerous. Traffic lights on all U-turns for example. Short slip roads which give too little space to merge safely or to cross lanes should be adjusted. Pedestrian crossings need to be installed - putting fences down the middle of a road isn't the answer, people still need to cross the road.

Signage is a problem that needs fixing. Road signage is all too often confusing and unclear, creating an unnecessary hazard. Fixing the problem is easy.

We need laws with heavy penalties for traffic offences. Heavy penalties not just a fine of a few dirhams. The more serious the offence the heavier the punishment. So jumping red lights, tailgating, talking on a mobile phone while driving, drink driving, driving on the hard shoulder...all should be very severely punished. Speeding is another, with increasing penalties on a sliding scale related to the speed above the speed limit.

And underpinning everything, an ongoing, serious, wide-ranging education strategy. Road safety education in schools, educating future generations of drivers. Education by way of media campaigns for everyone, drivers and pedestrians. Education of company owners & managers so that they understand the dangers of forcing drivers to work too-long hours.

And in the short term, getting dangerous drivers off the roads immediately by confiscating vehicles and licences. With enough police to check that banned drivers are not defying the ban and driving.

Hand wringing doesn't help. Being reactive is useless. Talking endlessly about it achieves nothing. The need is to get ahead of the game, to acknowledge the problem, identify the causes and to take firm, positive action to resolve it.

And it's urgent.


rosh said...
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rosh said...

Well, personally, I don't think it's all that easy/simple for DXB cops. UAE, honestly, has the worst drivers in the world, just given, some of the native folks, plus most of the expats who come from all over the world.

Each driver brings forth ways of driving from his or her home nation. Hence, for the most part, you've got people driving the way they do in India/Pakistan - amongst those who drive in Egypt, Syria or Lebanon, all in the UAE. Most often the sane ones are those from Western nations, well except for those Jumeriah Janes.

I learnt driving in SHJ - had an excellent instructor. As soon as I was on the road with my driver's licence, I realized, so many people simply chose, not to follow traffic laws. It comes to them so "naturally" (?)

Its' mind boggling, when you see someone HONK at a pedestrian, on a pedestrian crossing, attempting to cross the street! I could go, but am afraid, I'll pop another ulcer!

Start enforcing the point system, and take away those damn licences.

Restless in Dubai said...

Well, they just don't seem to care, how a death of 5, 10 or even 20 Filipina is going to affect them?

Do you really think they care how many people die on the roads each day? Yes, it does not really help Dubai's image internationally, but hello..I can surely say that people are pouring through to Dubai more than ever... so as a matter of time saving, I just do my share of driving safe.

CG said...

I live close to one of the junctions in Dubai that has seen the most deaths ever occur. We built our house 8 years ago, and on our first night we heard an awful accident and went out of the back gate to see, and found bodies strewn all over the place. Unfortunately this has continued in all these years. It is a fast moving road with a sharp bend in it. There is a gas station there, and people pulling out of the gas station mis-judge the speed of the cars and enter, usually busy eating whatever they have bought from the mini-mart, and by the looks of things they have not put their seatbelts back on yet.
Every single night I hear the screech and bump. About once a week our swimming pool gets filled with sand after the helicopters have had to land to pick up the remains.
My sympathy is rapidly dissapearing.
Friends comment frequently on the amount of rolled cars laying on the side of the road, when they come to visit.

rosh said...

Sheesh? CG, that is horrible.

clerge_c said...
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carolo said...

Making people take extra local tests won't change anything. The problem is that the authorities here have no clue how to drive :

I started taking driving lessons in france but did not have time to take the test. So when i came here and started all over again ...the only thig i can say is ..I am happy I had learned in France already !!! I mean the instructor was not given me any feedback, never made me take a roundabout, never driven on a highway, all she did was making me drive straight, asking me to change lane and making me take u-turns.

Instructors never explain that you should drive on the right lane and use the left lane to overtake only, never make you choose the right lane to take when near an intersection. An the worst ? The day I got my licence, one of the other girl who was taking the test drove past a STOP sign without stopping of course and guess what ? she got her licence !!! apparently in UAE if there is no one coming you dont have to stop allthough it says STOP it just means "give way". The inspector was local...

SO no wonder pple drive way below or under speed limit, on the wrong lane, take the right most lane in roundabout allthought they are making a u-turn and cut in front of you when you try to exit...

Jeff Price said...

Since posting 5 deaths in One Morning and reading your comments there have been several more deaths.
Two days ago another motorist was killed as he exited his vehicle on a very busy, dangerous road. he was hit by another mini van.

I will be joined by mohammed bin sulayem and adam ketchil very soon to debate the issue and look for solutions. If you would like to join in that discussion everyone is welcome.