ABU DHABI // Police will target young drivers guilty of speeding and using their phones at the wheel after a spike in the number of deaths on the roads.
Road safety experts have also called for a radical overhaul of driver training and major changes to motor insurance premiums to encourage better driving and cut the death toll.
The number of people killed in traffic accidents increased from 675 in 2015 to 725 last year, reversing a downward trend the previous year. Almost half of road accidents were caused by drivers aged between 18 and 30.
“They are our most important target,” Lt Gen Saif Al Shafar, undersecretary at the Ministry of Interior, said on Sunday at the opening of Gulf Traffic Week.
“The main causes for accidents in this age group are speeding, using phones behind the wheel and not keeping a safe distance between cars.
Gulf Traffic Week:
■ Call to curb reckless driving attitudes in the UAE
■ Confessions of a 210kph driver in the UAE
“These are major issues, and we are trying to use social media to reach young adults. We need to educate them on the consequences of unsafe driving.”
There are 5.5 deaths on the roads per 100,000 people, and the aim is to reduce that to three per 100,000 by 2021, Lt Gen Al Shafar said.
In general, the main causes of road accidents are recklessness and inattention, sudden swerving, failing to leave a safe distance between vehicles and driving through red lights.
Phil Clarke, road safety consultant at the Transport Research Lab, called for strict background checks on drivers insuring their cars.
“There is no link between driving records and the cost of insurance,” Mr Clarke said.
“In Europe, everyone understands young drivers have a greater risk of committing offences, which means the cost of insurance for young drivers is very high.
“In some cases, if they commit offences in the early stages, their licences are revoked and they are sent back to being learner drivers.”
Here, young people tend to drive vehicles with high-powered engines and do not face additional expenses for insurance, Mr Clarke said.
“In other parts of the world, if a young driver wants to insure a Mercedes AMG, it would cost the same as buying a house.
“Punishments based on behaviour and not those that can be easily paid off will also bring about a change, because most young drivers here can pay their fines and get back on the road.
“They need to be educated on positive behaviour and not competitive behaviour during their driver training. Their inputs on attitudes while driving should also be put to the test.”
Educational institutions can play an important part in teaching children about safety on the roads, said Thomas Edelmann, founder of Road Safety UAE.
“Educational sectors need to play a bigger role in shaping young drivers. Teachers can correct the behaviour of their students and they can do so in the case of road safety too.”
A change in culture, rather than having specific rules, was necessary, Mr Edelmann said.
“Young drivers try to blend in with the driving culture here, which is very negative.
“Some have told us they do not use indicators while driving because they do not want to look inexperienced. This needs to change.”
Car accident deaths plummeted 25.5 % in the UAE, and 19% in Abu Dhabi, by the end of 2011 compared to 2009, in a remarkable achievement which reflects the great efforts exerted by the concerned authorities, most prominently the Traffic Departments across the country.
In 2011, 6,700 accidents, 7,808 injuries and 720 deaths were reported.
The aforementioned figures were included in a recent report entitled the “Socioeconomic Impacts of Car Accidents” prepared by the Abu Dhabi DED’s Studies Directorate.
The report indicated that in 2011, Abu Dhabi alone saw 2,280 car accidents that resulted in 3,547 injuries and 334 deaths, constituting 46.4% of the entire car accidents in the country. In 2011, over eight million traffic violations were reported, 49.3% of which being in Abu Dhabi alone.
Of the this figure, the violations monitored for exceeding speed limits accounted for 76.3% across the country. In Abu Dhabi, violations increased by 411% compared to 2008, whereas the violations monitored across the country last year increased by 117% compared to 2009.
According to the Studies Department report, the car accidents in the past three years became the focus of attention for researchers as well as decision-makers in different countries owing to the heavy causalities in life and properties annually. Car accidents now are one of the most important areas of research and analysis for economists who are measuring and assessing direct and indirect socioeconomic cost of accidents.
In this effect, the report emphasized the importance of determining accurate and realistic methods to determine the tremendous financial cost and losses now being tantamount to that of wars as a result of the rising number of car accident deaths annually, the subsequent causalities and their impact on countries’ economies.
The report revealed that the calculated total cost relies primarily on two kinds of costs: the direct cost – the direct financial measurable objective cost – and the indirect socio-psychological cost resulted by the accident, being non-objective in terms of measurement. As for the methods of measurement, they vary considerably, these incorporate three prominent methods: overall product, net product and life insurance.
The DED’s Studies Department’s report indicated that calculation of the estimated cost of car accidents in the UAE relied on an equation that takes into consideration direct and indirect cost. The researchers’ report relied on the individual’s annual income, the age of work and the age of retirement, and the cost of guardianship before and after the age of retirement, apart from the cost of other indicated indirect costs estimations.
The report adds that having carried out prolonged and complex calculations, the researchers came to the conclusion that the car accident cost in the UAE in 2009 – 2011 is estimated at AED 17 billion, or an average of 1.6% of the GNP of the UAE. This marked 14.4% decline rate in the past three years and 26.5% decrease rate by the end of 2009, something that reflects the efforts exerted by the concerned security authorities.
The report indicated that the problem has become an international one, yet its impact on some areas and countries is more dramatic than in other areas. For example, the entire Arab region is classified as the most venerable region to car accidents annually, including the UAE in general, and Abu Dhabi in particular.
The report added that official statistics reveal that the number of car accidents causing human injuries in the UAE in 2011 alone amounted to 6,700, of which 720 deaths were reported. Although this figure is considered less than that of 2010, the figure is still considered relatively high according to international standards despite the distinguished security efforts exerted by the police in its all divisions to make security and safety prevail among the country’s nationals and expatriates.
The report added that a research team from the Studies Directorate in DED in Abu Dhabi has conducted a study focusing on methods of calculating and assessing car accident cost according to the available but relatively limited data and then act to hold discussions with the security authorities about them.
The report highly valued the roles performed by the Ministry of Interior, the Traffic Departments, the patrols within police stations and the Emirates Traffic Safety Society for their efforts and keenness on this particular issue as well as their constant endeavor towards raising awareness of the need for curbing such a phenomenon.
According to the study, car accidents are considered a major cause for the deaths and injuries of individuals aging 20 – 40. Nearly 1.3 million deaths and 30 – 50 million injuries were reported across the world annually. Car accidents are identified as the third causes of death in the world after heart diseases and strokes.
The report added that car accidents have socioeconomic and environmental impacts, and that the importance of calculating the economic cost lies in the need to determine the priorities of traffic safety and the required cost, and the assessment of how much car accidents cost the country’s GNP and to what extent this will have socioeconomic impacts.
He added that retrieving the car accident data will help decision-makers allocate suitable budgets and find proper solutions to address the subsequent problems, and reckon related cost as well as wasted and alternative opportunities caused by squandering the obtainable resources.
The report emphasized the need to determine the cost of administrative and organizational measures, i.e. enacting, drafting and amending the governing laws and legislations as well as preventive systems and programs (the traffic point system, the road monitoring system, the remote traffic control, etc.)
The Studies Department report demanded that different forms of car-accident administrative measures are taken and that human cadres are qualified and trained. The report also highlighted the need to study the impacts resulted from losing or thwarting a significant age category of native or expatriate residents as a result of injuries or deaths, something that causes them to leave the labor market, hence causing a substantial cost loss.
The report discussed the losses sustained by the national economy as a result of car accidents exceeding normal limits, which causes great losses to national insurance companies, undermines the insurance services provided and rises the insurance service cost, hence raising the number of litigations between insurance companies and agents in court.
The report warned that the rise of car accidents, specially serious ones, affects the luxury level in the country as a result of high mortality that causes families to lose their providers, which affects the families’ productivity and income and the level of luxury as a result.
The report also touched upon the harm done to infrastructure as a result of serious car accidents that cause substantial losses to public properties (i.e. road facilities) and private properties (i.e. private cars), indicating that restoring such properties requires more budgets to be allocated (whether by the country or individuals), which could be used in other areas of sustainable development.
The report added that the increase of car accidents causes the health service cost to rise, which incorporates the cost of clinical services and medication provided to those injured in car accidents (medication, stay in hospital, first aid, etc ), apart from their reflection on the society. The increase in car accident rates also has an impact on the society, as it affects the tourism sector, as tourists tend to avoid the countries with high car accident rates, which causes countries to lose a significant source of income.
According to the report, apart from the subsequent impacts of the increase in different car accidents, the official concerned authorities will have to sustain more burdens, i.e. the police, fire-extinguishing stations, ambulances and judicial circles, thereby waste part of the country’s resources.
The report added that car accidents also causes the cost of social services to increase when imposing the blood-money on the offender in case of deaths, thus causing families to sustain a financial burden for quite a long time.
The report highlighted the most prominent social impacts of car accidents, most notably the increasing rates of handicapped cases, which causes their families and the society as a whole to shoulder a burden, for they need special care, means of transport, bus stops, jobs and schools especially for them and institutes to qualify and look after them.
Among the important impacts highlighted by the report is the family disunion, as accidents become a cause for families to be disunited in case one, or more, family member dies in the accident, which jeopardizes families and perhaps causes its members to deviate.
According to the social and psychological impacts of car accidents and the difficult calculations of social cost, the report recommended that all possible efforts must be exerted to curb such accidents, and thus ward off and avoid related negative impacts, stressing that this requires more profound studies to be conducted based on analyzing different long periods in a manner that enables researchers to develop indicators in accordance with scientific research criteria.
The report emphasized the need for making available databases for all kinds of costs related to car accidents in the country and studying them so as to be able to establish objective and practical criteria and measurements that can be of assistance to decision-makers in this regard. The report also indicated the need for shifting from the concept of Traffic Knowledge to Traffic Behavior represented by applying traffic rules and abiding by them as a national duty derived from self-conviction.
In the recommendations provided, the report urged the public to abide by the traffic systems and rules on the basis that protecting self and others is called for in all religions and is a manner of conduct that reflects the society’s culture via full cooperation with traffic men and policemen via reporting serious violations.
The report also stressed the importance of activating the Police-Friends societies and clubs and publicizing them in schools, universities, clubs and elsewhere, and also getting different categories of the society and the concerned authorities such as the Ministry of Interior, Traffic Department and others to back and observe the conduct on road (social responsibility).
The report indicated that the trend towards accelerating new means of transport (providing electric trains in the existing routes and originating marine transport in areas adjacent to the sea) would all contribute to reducing car accidents rates considerably.
In conclusion, the report recommended that the DED’s Studies Directorate in Abu Dhabi should adopt a national program in harmony with the UN’s General Assembly Meeting 2010 (Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020) launched in May 2011 in more than 110 countries with the objective of rescuing the lives of millions of people through improving the criteria of safety on roads and in vehicles.