Dubai drivers beware: Even 'Lol' can be fatal

Dubai drivers beware: Even Lol can be fatal
A traffic officer from Oman tests RTA's VirtuDrive simulator during the authority's Gulf Traffic Week event at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai on Tuesday. - Photo by Dhes Handumon

Traffic week focusses on rectifying habit of texting and driving.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Wed 16 Mar 2016, 6:57 PM

Last updated: Wed 16 Mar 2016, 8:12 PM

You're driving at 88kmph and you take your eyes off the road for five seconds to check that urgent email from your boss. In those five seconds, unknown to you, your car has swerved off your lane, which is basically like driving the distance of a football field blind folded.
"You are 23 times more likely to end up in a crash while you are texting and driving, causing serious injury to yourself and your vehicle," said Deema Hussein, Traffic Awareness Senior Manager, Traffic Department, Traffic and Roads Agency, RTA.
However, despite the high incident rates and the warning issues to Dubai residents, people are still using their phones while driving. Ministry of Interior Statistics for 2015 showed that using the phone while driving violations have counted for 97,172 across the UAE.

Top five risks while  texting and driving 
>  1.  Major road distraction 
> 2.  One hand is off the wheel 
> 3. False sense of safety 
> 4. Fluctuation of speed 
> 5. Swerving off the lane
Speaking to Khaleej Times at the launch of Gulf Traffic Week awareness campaigns in Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, Hussein stated that most people find it very hard to admit that they are using the phone while driving.
"Many people are text messaging, using Instagram, taking videos and sending snap chats while they are behind the wheel," said Hussein.
According to a study by the American Automobile Association, the reaction time for drivers using a phone is around 50 per cent slower than normal driving. Also, texting forces the driver to take his hand off the steering wheel, which is approximately 10 per cent of your driving time outside of your lane.
"In this case, it is about changing mindsets that is a real challenge. People assume that they are very good drivers. But a driver taking a selfie or a photo for approximately 2 seconds takes his eyes off the road for nearly half a football field," added Hussein. She compared the campaign to an anti-smoking campaign because using the phone while driving is something that is done out of habit.
Also, a driver filming a 6-second video while driving at 96kmph is not paying attention to the road for nearly 4.5 football fields.
"People need to realise that texting while driving causes 1.6 million accidents per year," according to the American National Safety Council.
Residents in the UAE agree that texting and driving is indeed a far bigger menace than attending calls while driving. "Car technology is so advanced. Why can't people use headsets or Bluetooth technology while driving? Texting is very risky. I've seen people taking pictures of their dashboards while driving to send a snap chat about the speed they are travelling in. That's ridiculous. People must stop," said Sharjah resident Ravi Kiran, an Indian national and marketing professional.
A resident of Dubai and homemaker Samah Bassam said: "Raising the penalty and impound is the only way people will stop doing it. It's a mindset and attitude problem. Several people are very confident about their driving skills, which is always not the case."
As part of the campaign, RTA is also going to schools, colleges, other educational institutions and shopping malls to raise awareness.

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