Will Dh1,000 fine, 12 black points stop you from texting?

Will Dh1,000 fine, 12 black points stop you from texting?
A picture shot on Sunday shows a man using his cell phone while driving on a busy road in Dubai.

Dubai - Texting while driving makes one 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident, and reduces the reaction time of drivers by 50 per cent.

By Amira Agarib and Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Published: Mon 19 Sep 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 20 Sep 2016, 12:05 AM

Despite the best efforts of local authorities, distracted drivers continue to be a major concern on the roads of the UAE. We've all seen drivers - many of them young - happily texting, using social media or chattering away, oblivious to the dangers they are causing to themselves and others on the roads. Far too often, doing so results in accidents, injuries, and tragic deaths.
According to statistics from Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), texting while driving makes one 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident, and reduces the reaction time of drivers by 50 per cent.

 How to ensure safety behind wheels
Road Safety UAE recommends that the following steps be taken to ensure safety behind the wheel:
> Before you enter your car, put your mobile on silent and stow it in a safe place
> If you have to make a call by driving, let any passengers take or make the call
> Make sure that you use 'hands-free' systems if calling if absolutely necessary
> The best option is to call back when finished, or to take a break from driving for the call
> It should be noted, however, that using a hands free device is a source of distraction
> Under no circumstances type out a text message or use an Internet browser while driving
> Take particular care and drive defensively if you drive in close proximity to a driver using his or her mobile device
In response, the Khaleej Times is launching a campaign to spread awareness of the dangers of texting while driving, and call for tougher sanctions for those caught in the act of using their mobile phone while driving.
Thankfully, the UAE is already mulling over new and harsher penalties for those caught using a mobile phone while behind the wheel - even if they are stopped at a red light.
According to a proposal submitted by the Federal Traffic Council to the Ministry of the Interior earlier this year, the fine will be raised from Dh200 and four black points to Dh1,000 and 12 black points, along with the seizure of the offending vehicle.
The proposal was made following a recent rash of traffic accidents caused by mobile phones, according to officials. Police officials noted that fines will be issued both by officers at the scene, as well as in absentia as a result of CCTV images, which has the added benefit of avoiding traffic jams. In cases in which the images are not clear, fines will be cancelled.
Colonel Saif Muhair Al Mazroui, Director of the Traffic Department, said that the taking of selfies also falls under the framework of using a mobile phone while driving. According to police statistics, nearly 35,734 mobile phone offences were recorded, compared to 45,499 in 2014 and 49,643 in 2015. About 21,000 violations have been recorded during the first few months of the current year.
In response to accidents, police have stepped up awareness campaigns about the seriousness of using mobile phones while driving.
Such incidents, police note, can often be deadly. The police is also taking tip-offs from residents as part of the "We Are All Police" initiative.
Major accidents
Among the accidents that police have blamed on mobile phones was the death of a person who crashed and became stuck in his vehicle, who was later found with a mobile phone in his hand. Additionally, four UAE nationals were caught taking a selfie while driving at speeds of up to 205 kilometres per hour on Emirates Road.
In another incident, a driver was killed when the vehicle he was driving hit a media and overturned. He was later found to have been using his mobile at the time of the accident.
Police officials are quick to note that using a mobile phone while behind the wheel can have an even more detrimental effect to driving ability than alcohol or other intoxicants.
Additionally, experts note that texting while driving forces at least one hand to be taken off the steering wheel, which means that approximately 10 per cent of driving time is spent outside the appropriate lane.
In Dubai alone, police estimate that half of all youth accidents are caused by drivers texting or using social media while behind the wheel. bernd@khaleejtimes.com

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