GCC must make roads safer
Dubai, November 22, 2011
Reversing the lack of road safety culture in the Gulf region is the biggest challenge that GCC governments face in their efforts to make roads safer to drive on, according to a road safety expert from the FIA Foundation.
Rita Cuypers, director of campaigns and events at the FIA Foundation said that attitudes toward speeding, changing lanes without warning, dangerous overtaking, tailgating, mobile phone usage while driving and ignoring traffic lights are just some of the issues that the region’s governments need to tackle to keep roads safer.
“There seems to be a lack of road safety culture in the GCC countries, which are considered to be dangerous to drive on,” said Cuypers. “The attitudes of young men seem to be particularly problematic. A study by the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy found that reckless driving such as speeding, tailgating and dangerous overtaking are accepted practices among young Emirati men.
“Additionally, sticking to the speed limit, keeping a safe distance, wearing seatbelts and stopping to make phone calls were considered ‘unmanly’.”
Cuypers will be among an expert line-up of road safety experts at the sixth edition of the Gulf Traffic Conference, taking place on December 12 and 13 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
She will introduce the steps that led to the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety – a global action plan launched in May 2011 by governments, international agencies, civil organisations and private companies.
The ten-year plan was established to stabilise and reduce global road accident fatalities and casualties.
According to the UN, there are currently 1.3 million people killed and 50 million injured on the roads worldwide, with 90 per cent of these casualties occurring in developing countries. At the current rate, it is predicted that road toll deaths will climb to 2.4 million by 2030.
“Road crashes are already the number one killer of young people between the ages of 10 and 25 worldwide,” added Cuypers. “By 2015 they will be the leading health burden of children over the age of five in developing countries.”
“GCC countries are high income countries with a modern road infrastructure system and modern vehicles, but their road traffic injuries and death rates are comparable to lower income, developing countries,” she said.
Cuypers called on GCC governments to enforce a zero tolerance policy on road misdemeanors and said that education on road safety and risks at an early age is needed to reverse the lack of road safety awareness.
“GCC countries should make sure that they are up to speed on legislation targeting risk factors such as not using seatbelts, motorcycle helmets, child restraint systems, use of mobile phones while driving, and speeding,” added Cuypers. “Road safety education at an early age is also necessary, and should form part of the school curriculum.”
Increasing road safety and reducing traffic are top priorities for regional governments, and are the main topics of discussion at the two-day Gulf Traffic Conference 2011. The event will bring together leading regional and international road traffic and transportation experts.
Cuypers said that although there is still plenty of work to be done, the region is heading in the right direction to improve rode safety. “GCC countries are increasing their efforts to improve road safety on their roads and this has involved establishing road safety awareness campaigns, more police enforcement, speed radars, and measures to protect pedestrians.”
“These measures have already led to positive results. For example, the number of road fatalities in Abu Dhabi fell by a third in 2010 after a series of safety awareness campaigns and enforcement. In Dubai, road fatalities have reportedly fallen 30 to 40 per cent so far in 2011 compared to the same period in 2010, again after intensified police patrolling and speed cameras,” she added.
Organised by Informa Exhibitions, the Gulf Traffic Conference runs alongside the Gulf Traffic Exhibition, which has so far confirmed an exhibitor line-up of 149 contractors, manufacturers and suppliers from 27 countries in the Middle East and overseas.
The exhibition and conference is supported by Dubai Police and is held under the patronage of lieutenant general Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, commander-in-chief of Dubai Police. – TradeArabia News Service