DUBAI: For years, a debate has roiled. If a pedestrian is breaking the law by jaywalking, then why is it that the motorist is held responsible in case of an accident.
But now Abu Dhabi police has set the record straight.
Last week it announced that pedestrians who cross streets at undesignated points will be held responsible in the event of an accident.
“If a person violates these rules and suffers injuries in an accident, neither the driver not the insurance company will be responsible for this injury,” Abu Dhabi police stated in texts to mobile phones and on social networks last week.
“Those who cross the road in the wrong way are vulnerable to serious accidents that could lead to injuries or deaths…the pedestrians making wrong crossings will be responsible for what happens to them.”
Pedestrians to blame
Colonel Hamad Mubarak bin Othaith Al Ameri, head of the Traffic Department at the Directorate of Traffic and Patrols in Abu Dhabi said pedestrians are to blame in the majority of accidents.
As many as 70 people died in run over accidents in Abu Dhabi last year. The new move is seen as a major change as it shifts the liability from the motorist to the pedestrian.
While pedestrians have been blamed for nearly 95 per cent of run over accidents in neighbouring Dubai too, it’s inavariably the motorist who has to bear the brunt of law.
Nothing illustrates this better than a recent case where a 22-year-old aviation student was declared guilty by the Dubai Traffic Misdemeanour Court for killing a 15-year-old Indian girl who was walking on Zabeel Road intending to commit suicide.
Defence lawyer Uday Al Kazwini said that before the girl stepped onto the road she handed her phone to a man and told him she was going to kill herself.
Another driver, one of three who managed to avoid hitting her seconds before the fatal accident, told police the girl was crossing the highway with her eyes shut. ‘Are you insane? Are you trying to get yourself killed,” the driver screamed as he slammed hard on the brakes. The girl stopped, opened her eyes and said ‘yes’,
The man said when he realised the girl had a death wish he attempted to drive to the opposite side of the highway by taking a U-turn so he could warn other drivers, but it was too late. She was hit by a car driven by a aviation student and died of her injuries. When the matter went to court, the student was ordered to pay Dh120,000 in blood money to the girl’s family. The court reduced the blood mony amount from the standard Dh200,000, saying the girl was 40 per cent at fault.
The case raises the fundamental question: who has right of way on the road? By all logic it should be the vehicles. A road is meant for cars, not people, except at designated points such as signals, zebra crossings, etc.
Motorists argue that just as a train driver cannot be held accountable for running over someone walking on the tracks, they should not be blamed if they accidentally hit a jaywalker.
Counsellor Hamdy Al Shemi said that under the law, the right of way is decided in accordance with the road plan. If a jaywalker is on a road where there is a pedestrian crossing, he/she is at fault. However, “him/her crossing a road where there is no designated pedestrian crossing does not absolve the driver of blame,” said the counsellor.
Al Shemi said if police found the driver speeding, or not paying attention, he/she will have to blood money and face a prison term.
But what if the driver was driving under the speed limit? “Even if the driver is not at fault, he will be fined and obligated to pay blood money in most cases. On some occasions the court might find him innocent. But that’s rare,” said Al Shemi.
Obada Azmi, another lawyer, shared the same view. “Unless investigation proves the jaywalker was attempting suicide, the driver will have to pay the standard amount. However, if the driver was found innocent, or partially at fault, he will be fined and obligated to pay blood money — the only difference is that the amount will be reduced,” said Azmi.
Some lawyers say the Abu Dhabi move could set a precedent for other emirates.
A road safety expert said UAE should adopt the Assured Clear Distance Ahead (ACDA) rule as a general legal principle in accidents involving pedestrians. Followed in many countries, ACDA means that a motorist must drive at a reasonable enough speed that he or she can stop in time if something obstructs the path of travel. The driver who goes too fast to stop within a resonable distance will be liable for an accident.
However, some motorists said the rule is unfair if a pedestrian jumps in front without warning.