KT campaign: Distracted drivers increase on UAE roads

Picture used for illustrative purposes alone

Dubai - Of those using their mobile phones, 74 per cent said they use them to take incoming calls, with another 43 per cent saying they also make outgoing calls.

By Bernd Debusmann Jr. and Jasmine Al Kuttab

Published: Tue 20 Sep 2016, 10:12 PM

Last updated: Wed 21 Sep 2016, 1:40 AM

Alarming new data shows that almost three-quarters of UAE residents have reported seeing more distracted drivers on the road than they did six months ago.

The data, part of the third cycle of RoadSafetyUAE's Road Safety Monitor conducted in August, found that 73 per cent of residents said they believed that drivers using their mobile devices had increased over the last six months.
Disturbingly, 36 per cent of respondents said they use their mobile phones during more than 50 per cent of their drives.
Of those using their mobile phones, 74 per cent said they use them to take incoming calls, with another 43 per cent saying they also make outgoing calls.
Additionally, 19 per cent said they respond to incoming SMS or Whatsapp messages while driving, while 14 per cent said they sent outgoing messages.
Nine per cent reported checking social media while behind the wheel.
An earlier study from 2014, found that 30 per cent of UAE motorists reported that they got distracted when they got calls while driving, and 19 per cent got distracted even if they used hands-free.
The founder of RoadSafetyUAE, Thomas Edelmann, said the problem of distracted drivers stems from basic human nature.
"Unfortunately, it's a basic human need to be connected all the time," he said. "It's not just in the UAE. The same problem exists on a global level, too."
According to Edelmann, RoadSafetyUAE's data suggests that the issue of distracted driving is particularly prevalent among young people between the ages of 25 and 29.
"Drivers who are between 19 and 24 who have just started driving tend to be a bit more cautious," he noted. "But between 25 and 29, a lot of misbehaviour spikes. This needs to be a key target audience for awareness campaigns."
Additionally, Edelmann noted that hefty fines and additional black points are a deterrent to "a certain extent", but noted that such efforts are only effective if residents believe they stand a strong chance of being caught.
"Much more important than the points and the fines is the enforcement," he said. "If you think that you will be caught at any moment, then you will change your behaviour. There needs to be that element of control."
Edelmann added that although enforcement is perhaps not as strict in the UAE as in other countries, authorities are working hard to remedy the situation.
"The UAE is doing a lot, by providing additional sophisticated cameras, for example," he said. "Still, enforcement points need to go up."
Leading causes
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) issued a report, highlighting that texting, surfing the Internet and taking pictures while driving are leading causes of accidents.
Another report by the MoI said: "Nearly 19 per cent of road accidents in the UAE last year were caused by lack of concentration, mainly due to using mobile phones."
The MoI also noted that there were 4,788 road accidents in the UAE last year, which caused 675 deaths and 6,263 injuries. Dubai witnessed a total of 166 road fatalities in 2015, while Sharjah Police recorded an average of eight to 10 deaths each month.

Residents react to 'phone driving'
Jasmine Al Kuttab
Abu Dhabi resident, Shahad Hashim said that more awareness needs to be in place and tougher penalties should be given to drivers using mobile phones.
"It doesn't matter if the roads are busy or empty - it is pure selfishness to put other people's lives in jeopardy, simply because the driver needs to check what is on the phone. A Dh200 fine is not enough for drivers caught using their mobile phones. The mobile phone should be looked at as a dangerous weapon that should not be used when driving."
Marwa Othman said: "We all know that mobile phones cause distraction for drivers and it only takes a split second for an accident to happen."
"If a driver behind the wheel was responsible for another person's death simply because he was on his phone, then this driver is himself a killer."
Some motorists however, still continue to use their phones knowing that consequences can often be fatal, not only for themselves, but also for those around them.
"I do regularly use my mobile phone while driving, often posting videos on Snapchat," admitted one resident. "I have thousands of followers on social media, and they expect me to post what I do and where I go."
"I will try to stop this negative habit, because I know it's dangerous and I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I hurt someone." 

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