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Youth cause nearly half of UAE accidents, police say

ABU DHABI // Police in the UAE are targeting young adult drivers after statistics revealed almost half of traffic accidents were caused by motorists aged between 18 and 30.

The Ministry of Interior said 45 per cent of traffic accidents last year were caused by motorists in that age group, compared with 47 per cent of accidents the previous year.

Road safety experts said the ease of getting cars insured without checking motorists’ backgrounds for traffic offences and a lack of behavioural training while issuing licences are factors.

“Drivers aged 18 to 30 are our most important target,” Lt Gen Saif Al Shafar, undersecretary at the Ministry of Interior, said on Sunday during the opening ceremony of Gulf Traffic Week.

“The main causes for accidents within this age group are speeding, using phones behind the wheel and not keeping safe distance between cars,” Lt Gen Al Shafar said.

“These are major issues, and we are trying to use social media to reach young adults. We need to educate them on the know-how and consequences of unsafe driving.”

The death toll from traffic accidents increased from 675 in 2015 to 725 last year, according to police.

“According to current statistics, we have 5.5 deaths per 100,000 people in the UAE and we aim to reduce that number to three deaths per 100,000 by 2021,” said Lt Gen Al Shafar.

Eighteen per cent of the road accidents were caused by recklessness and inattention, 15 per cent by sudden swerving, 30 per cent by not leaving safe distance between cars and 10 per cent by excessive speed. Red light violations caused 8 per cent of accidents and bursting tyres 2 per cent.

Strict background checks for insuring cars and non-payable punishments will bring about a change in the number of accidents caused by young drivers, an expert said.

“In the UAE there is no link between driving records and the cost of insurance,” Phil Clarke, road safety consultant at the Transport Research Lab, said.

“In Europe, everyone understands young drivers have a greater risk of committing offences, which means insurance for young drivers is very high.

“In some cases, if they commit offences in the early stages, their licences are revoked and they are sent back to being learner drivers.”

Here, young people tend to drive vehicles with high-powered engines and do not face additional expenses for insurance, Mr Clarke said.

“In other parts of the world, if a young driver wants to insure a Mercedes AMG, it would cost the same price as buying a house,” he said.

“Punishments based on behaviour and not those that can be paid off will also bring about a change, because most young drivers here can pay their fines and get back on the road.

“They need to be educated on positive behaviour and not competitive behaviour during their driver licence training. Their inputs on attitudes while driving should also be put to test.”

Educational institutions play an important role in teaching children about safety on the roads, said Thomas Edelmann, founder of Road Safety UAE.

“Educational sectors need to play a bigger role in shaping young drivers. Teachers can write behaviours of their students and can do so in the case of road safety too,” he said.

He said a change in culture, rather than having specific rules, is necessary.

“Young drivers try to blend in with the driving culture here, which is very negative,” said Mr Edelmann. “Some have told us they do not use indicators while driving because they do not want to look inexperienced. This needs to change.”

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The National