Stiffer penalties needed to make UAE roads safe

Sunday’s crash has yet again reminded us of how distracted driving and sudden swerving continue to claim lives on the roads of the UAE. The horrific crash on Al Rabat road, Dubai, has led to deaths of five workers, and injured more.

This accident adds up to the list of more than 110 fatalities this year alone. Why are the roads in the UAE so unsafe, one may ponder, when clearly the country has excellent infrastructure and the government has made significant investments in terms of the quality of roads and technology implemented? The answer, appallingly enough, is the sheer carelessness and casual behaviour of the residents when they get behind the wheel. According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global status report on road safety 2015, the UAE witnessed 10.9 road deaths per 100,000 population.

The statistics are worryingly high, and point at the urgent need to crack down on distracted driving. The near-term solutions could be to introduce refresher tests and courses for all drivers, and tighten laws further to discourage speeding and swerving, which are the top causes of road accidents in the UAE. In the longer term introducing autonomous driving vehicles might be the right thing. It’ll remove distracted humans from the driving equation completely and make roads safer. But for now, there is no hidden magic bullet for creating immediate awareness and tackling road safety. The government is doing its best to introduce new technology, improve infrastructure and levy heftier penalties for offenders to improve conditions on the roads. The UAE’s aims to reduce road deaths to three for each 100,000 people by 2021, and achieve zero fatalities on the road by 2030 is commendable. But until people who behind the wheel realise that they are as much responsible for other people’s lives as they are for themselves, it is hard to see any change. The government’s vision can only be achieved if everyone works together.

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