Car Accidents in the UAE

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    03-Jun-2018

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    Car Accident Deaths in the United Arab Emirates

    Introduction

    Earlier in the year, during the month of August 2013, a British man and his seven year

    old were killed in a car accident in the United Arab Emirates. The two died when a large trailer

    rammed into them while they were walking on the side walk, going about their business. The

    accident led to injury of six other individuals including the driver of the trailer. Upon

    questioning, the driver stated that he was exhausted from driving over the long bank weekend

    during the last week of the holy month of Ramadhan, where all Muslims enjoyed the Eid

    festivities. Police Dubai stated that there were nearly 1600 accidents in the Emirate alone during

    the long bank holiday and it was attributed to reckless changing of lanes, driving when fatigued

    and driving too fast.

    According to the World Health Organization, the United Arab Emirates is among the

    highest ranking countries in terms of accidents all over the world. The UAE consists of seven

    emirates including: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-

    Quwain. Together, they hold a population of about 10 million people with a per capita income of

    $29.877, which is one of the highest levels in the world. The country prospers mainly due to its

    large reserves of oil and natural gas making its income almost steady year in year out.

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    However, despite their prosperity, the countrys citizens lack awareness when it comes to

    preventing road carnage and this has led to high death tolls in the recent past. In fact according to

    the World Health Organization, death by car accidents in the United Arab Emirates is seven

    more times likely to happen to an individual compared to the United Kingdom. Moreover, car

    accidents are the second highest cause of death in the region. It is the primary cause of the death

    of children in the region, where 63% of all deaths relating to children are due to accidents. This

    statistics show the severity of the issue.

    This paper will reflect on the main causes of car accidents in the region, their effects to

    the people and economy of the area, and will subsequently provide recommendations to ensure

    the number of fatalities reduce in the coming future.

    Causes of Car Accidents in the United Arab Emirates

    i. FatigueIn the year 2009, police in Dubai recorded three accidents where drivers claimed to be

    fatigued and sleepy while driving. This was especially common amongst drivers driving long

    vehicles with equally long destinations. In most countries, driving large trailers or trucks is

    deemed as operating heavy machinery and under the law it is illegal to operate heavy machinery

    when one is not of sound mind to do so. However, the arm of the government can only be so

    long and it is common for many drivers to continue with their journey even though they are too

    tired to drive. Fatigue causes drivers to fall asleep while driving and this obviously perpetuates

    accidents.

    ii. Recklessness or carelessness

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    These include: overloading vehicles, overtaking on the wrong side of the road, entering

    streets before ensuring they are clear to enter, driving under the influence of alcohol, and or

    drugs, speeding, inter alia. Dubai police estimated that these and other cases of recklessness

    caused over 1000 accidents in the year 2009.

    Recklessness if mainly attributed to lack of driving experience but laws of the region

    actually state the minimum age for car hire as 25 years. Furthermore, the law is very strict on the

    consumption of alcohol. In fact, alcohol is served at major bars and hotels and is only intended

    for guests of the hotel. People who are not guests are not allowed to partake of alcohol and if one

    is to do so, he is supposed to have a liquor license. These licenses are not issued to Muslims and

    this goes a long way to restrict the consumption of alcohol in the region. The Emirate Sharjah

    actually completely prohibits consumption of alcohol.

    However, as aforementioned, the arm of the government can only be so long. Most

    people still have access to alcohol and a percentage of them are not of Muslim descent. For

    instance, the driver responsible for the killing of 16 people in Dubai was an Indian. This shows

    that foreigners also play a role in the cause of accidents in the region. Foreigners used to driving

    on the left may face a difficulty switching and driving on the right as is done in the UAE. This is

    one of the major reasons behind overtaking on the wrong side and other costly mistakes on the

    road.

    The roads in the region are also fairly complex. They are smooth and complexly

    constructed. Due to the high GDP and economic development levels of the country, it is known

    to have complicated infrastructure in terms of road networks. The Emirates Road connects all

    seven Emirates and is the most popular road in the region and therefore, has the most users. The

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    complexity of these roads also adds to the cause of accidents in the region. Their smoothness

    encourages over speeding which is also highly dangerous.

    The holy month of Ramadhan also records high numbers of accidents in the region.

    Police attribute this to two main factors. In the evening many people are usually in a rush to get

    home so as to break their fast. Studies show that the hunger pangs experienced in this time may

    cause drivers to have anxiety and therefore affect their judgment on the road. Second, due to the

    fasting taking place, the body gets weak and it affects concentration, eyesight and judgment.

    Finally, recklessness is furthered by sheer ignorance. The rules of the road require all

    drivers to always be alert and aware of their surroundings therefore, once a person is ignorant of

    others, then he is highly accident-prone and capable of hurting himself and others.

    iii. Vehicle MalfunctionVehicle malfunctions refer to mishaps that occur when one is operating vehicles on the

    road. Some malfunctions could have been easily prevented and others may be difficult to foresee.

    According to police in the region, most accidents due to these reasons occur due to tire

    explosions and there are unique causes where trailer compartments separate, detaching from each

    other and causing accidents.

    At times drivers neglect to regularly service their vehicles or keep them under habitual

    maintenance. This leads to deterioration of vehicles making them more accident-prone. These

    causes are usually beyond the control of the driver and therefore once malfunction occurs,

    accidents are inevitable and highly fatal. In fact, an incident where a tire exploded on the road

    lead to the death of seven and left over one hundred people injured. The weather conditions in

    the country also require regular maintenance of vehicles which many drivers tend to ignore.

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    iv. Natural CausesNatural causes are those that are beyond the control of man. Common examples in the

    region include loose animals such as camels and sheep, and the very common dust storms

    experienced in the region.

    A driver once reported to police in Abu Dhabi that a flock of sheep appeared from

    nowhere without trace of a shepherd and if he had not hit his emergency brakes he would have

    probably died and killed a few animals in the process. Dust storms are usually difficult to predict

    and when they do occur, lead to impaired vision for drivers on the road. Impaired vision

    immediately translates to accidents as most drivers stop abruptly and in the event of a large flow

    of traffic leads to multiple accidents.

    Effects of Car Accidents in the UAE

    The effects of car accidents in the region affect the people and the government as well.

    i. Effect on the peopleThe steady number of deaths by accidents in the region is very high; actually, the World

    Health Organization puts it at approximately 6000 people over the last six years, which averages

    to two per day. These are people with families, and are mostly breadwinners. Families that lose

    their breadwinners suffer from financial insecurity, even in a country with a high per capita

    income. The social life of these families is affected due to the high levels of mortality, which in

    turn affects income and productivity.

    ii. Effect on Government

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    High levels of accidents in the UAE cost the government approximately Dh17 Billion in

    socioeconomic losses in the past three years. These socio-economic losses include the following:

    a. Providing social security for those families who have lost their providers or breadwinners due to car accidents. Usually, it is the responsibility of the government to take care of

    widows, children, or orphans ensuring their standard of living is not entirely affected. Due to the

    high level of accidents, the government is faced to make a lot of payouts to many different

    families which in turn leads to deficit in government funds.

    b. Countries with a large accident problem find it hard to attract tourists. Tourism isa main economic activity in the region as the Emirates have all spent a substantial amount of

    money improving their places of accommodation to attract hotel guests, as well as marketing

    their country as a tourist destination. However, the amount of tourists in the region has decreased

    with lower numbers turning up especially during the holy month of Ramadhan. This has cost the

    government billions of currency that would have otherwise arisen if there werent so many

    accidents in the region.

    c. The government of the area has spent a lot of money educating the public on thedangers of reckless driving as well as performing campaigns on road safety. Furthermore, the

    Emirates have spent a lot of public funds equipping the police and other response departments

    such as ambulances and hospitals to deal with the entire crisis. These are funds that would have

    otherwise been used to develop the region this is hence a cost to the government.

    d. The increased level of accidents also leads to increased cost of health servicesincluding insurance and hospital charges. Many people may be unable to afford these costs hence

    affecting their living standards. To the government, the cost of health care is one of their

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    fundamental responsibilities therefore; they face a big challenge trying to balance out the costs in

    the presence of high levels of accidents in the region.

    Recommendations to the UAE on car accident levels in the region

    Despite the harsh regulations that exist in the area regarding driving, alcohol and hire of

    vehicles, the level of car accidents has not decreased to an acceptable level. This is not to state

    that a certain amount of deaths are acceptable, but rather to enunciate that the region can

    effectively reduce the number of accidents. It is not only the responsibility of the government to

    facilitate this campaign, but it is also the role of the public to heed the rules of road safety and

    adhere accordingly.

    Some of the recommendations include:

    i. Intensified patrols by the police: Having police on the roads constantly will ensurethat the drivers are kept on their toes constantly. Recklessness and carelessness causes of

    accidents may be avoided in this way. For example, in the UAE, driving under the influence of

    alcohol has serious penalties and the level of consumption is irrelevant. Penalties for this

    particular crime include jail time, hefty fines, and in some instances (especially for Muslims),

    lashings. By having intensified police patrols, drivers will know better than to be reckless and

    this will perpetuate safe driving in the region.

    ii. Deployment of speed cameras: At times is it s difficult for police patrols to coverthe extensive road network in the region. Therefore, deployment of these cameras makes their

    work easier and further helps in providing concrete evidence of a drivers speeding mistakes.

    The presence of these cameras influences the driving attitude of many road users and will

    subconsciously entice them to be more careful.

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    iii. Campaigns on road safety: Education of the public on the rules of road safety willgo a long way in reducing the level of accidents in the region. This is because imparting

    knowledge on the public will prevent recklessness, ignorance and poor judgment among drivers.

    iv. Stringent penalties: Recently, black points have been introduced to the regionwhere found fault at this region may lead to stringent penalties such as loss of license. The fear

    of such penalties will also go a long way to influence road users to be more careful.

    Conclusion

    Despite the high number of car accidents in the United Arab Emirates, the levels have

    continually decreased in the recent past. This shows that if the government and people in the area

    worked a little harder, the number of accidents will continue to reduce, subsequently, the number

    of lives will be saved. Most of the causes of these accidents can be prevented and it is evident

    that the effects have a negative impact to the economy of the region. However, from the

    recommendations given, accidents could decrease if more attention is paid to the rules of road

    safety.

    The life of people within a country is what drives the country forward. People are the

    source of labour, they are the market for goods, and they are the payers of tax. It is therefore

    important to protect these lives for the survival of any economy.