Even if you haven’t spotted one so far today, it’s extremely likely that the last time you were on the road, you witnessed at least one person driving faster than they should.
It could even have been you. In the first seven months of this year, Dubai Police Traffic Department recorded 1.2 million traffic breaches – almost two thirds of which were related to speeding, making it top of the list of driving offences. In September, Major General Mohammed Saif Al Zafeen, director of the general directorate of traffic at Dubai Police, noted that 90 percent of traffic accidents occur as a result of excess speed. The casings for Dubai’s speed cameras are managed by the RTA, which according to Maitha bin Adai, Chief Executive of the Traffic and Roads Agency, has installed 450 radar stations and 230 intersection camera stations. The cameras themselves are installed by Dubai Police.
‘Speeding is a big problem in the UAE, and particularly so in Dubai,’ says Robert Hodges, CEO of the Emirates Driving Institute (EDI) and Fujairah National Driving Institute. Hodges is an advisory member of several international road safety and driving regulatory bodies, and has worked with and as a consultant for commercial organisations and regulatory authorities in more than 20 countries. Asked what he thinks contributes to excessive speed being such a big issue, Hodges has a number of ideas on what causal factors could be at play – firstly, that the city’s transient population and an ever-changing group of drivers mean the culture of Dubai driving is lacking maturity.
‘[Secondly] Dubai has an overall younger driver demographic than many other countries, and younger people are obviously less experienced than older people, and psychologically more liable to make poor judgement calls while driving. The UAE has a much higher proportion of new drivers across a wide age spectrum, and the likelihood of new drivers having an accident during their first 18 months of driving is quite high,’ he explains.
In response to this, the RTA’s licensing agency announced it would begin distributing warning stickers to be placed on the windscreen of cars being driven by new drivers – though not mandatory, Sultan Al Marzouqi, Director of the Drivers’ Licensing Department at the agency explained that the stickers, which say ‘New Driver’, would warn other drivers and contribute to road safety.
Then there are the issues of concentration – Hodges believes some drivers don’t realise motoring is a serious pastime that requires 100 percent concentration. Reduced visibility due to tints, sunglasses, roller-screen blinds and a variety of other hazards is another cause for concern. ‘Some drivers can hardly see out of their vehicles in daylight, let alone twilight or night,’ he notes.
The fact that owning a supercar is not a world away from being considered the norm in Dubai could also be a factor – Hodges believes no one under the age of 25 should be allowed behind the wheel of such a powerful vehicle, and especially not without additional training to handle a high-powered car. ‘In many countries, young or inexperienced drivers are either not allowed by law, or are discouraged by insurance costs not to drive supercars,’ he explains. ‘Some vendors offer supplementary training to drive performance cars safely, but in this region people don’t take up the offer of such help.’ This, combined with world-class, high-speed roads, can lead to disaster.
More than 100 people have been killed so far on Dubai’s roads in 2013. Fortunately, Dubai Police are extremely active in tackling the issue. Radars, road patrols, vehicle confiscation for reckless driving and fines are the current preventative tactics being employed, according to a response on Twitter from @DubaiPoliceHQ, when asked what Dubai Police are doing to prevent speeding and reckless driving.
For several months now, a proposal by the EDI’s Hodges would also like to see roadside radar checks in urban areas, driving licences withdrawn instead of vehicle confiscation for repeat offenders and a big increase in speeding fines (and make them payable within one week). He is also in favour of a mandatory one-day workshop for speeding offenders and other dangerous drivers showing graphic videos of road accidents, along with lectures and a discussion to reinforce positive messages.