Abu Dhabi: More than 13,000 drivers were fined for using a mobile at the wheel in the first six months of the year.
Police warned they will be cracking down on motorists who flout the law requiring them to use only hands-free phones while on the road.
"Driving is a complex task. It requires attention to use and coordinate several skills simultaneously. Any lapse in concentration increases the risk of getting into an accident, causing serious damage or even death," Colonel Jamal Al Ameri, public relations director at the Traffic and Patrol department of Abu Dhabi Police, told Gulf News.
Figures show 13,389 drivers were caught on their phones between January and June, compared to 13,100 violations for the same period last year.
"Driving while using a hand-held mobile phone can distract drivers, affect their reaction time and visual search pattern, impair their ability to maintain speed and position on the road of the vehicle, weaken their ability to judge speed and distance, and reduce their overall awareness of what is happening on the road," Al Ameri added. "The recent death of two Emirati footballers was contributed by cell phone usage and gave more visibility to this issue.
"The need to drive carefully increases with the winter approaching. During winter, roads become more dangerous in times of rain or fog. It entails reduced visibility and slippery conditions.
"Speeding is another major factor in road accidents and fatalities," Al Ameri added, pointing out that 1.48 million speeding violations were recorded between January and June, compared to 896,811 for the same period last year.
The department is on a continuous mission to increase awareness of the dangers of inappropriate driving and excessive speed, aiming to educate people on safety and skills.
"A campaign was launched in September focusing on young drivers. The campaign includes class time in high school on safety tips, driving techniques and a view of the potential outcomes due to accidents," Al Ameri said.
The authorities are also taking steps to modify driving laws. "New driving licences will no longer be automatically issued for a five-year period to new drivers. Instead, new licences will be granted for one-year period, renewable if drivers remain accident and ticket free," Al Ameri said.
"Parents should not allow children who do not have licences to drive," he said. "Parents and guardians must also pay attention to conditions of the vehicles. New scratches or dents are indications that must be of concern."