Text by Riaz Naqvi
The morning school run is a tense time on UAE roads. Parents are under pressure to drop off their children and then get to work on time.
According to the UAE’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority, more than one million students are enrolled in the country’s schools. This number needs to be safely dropped off and picked up every day.
Commuting every morning and afternoon can be stressful. In this environment, people can make rash decisions: swerving across lanes without indicating, pushing up against the vehicle in front of them, speeding up and attempting to cut in at the front of an exit queue.
The consequences can be fatal. In Dubai alone, the first nine months of this year saw 100 people die in 2,082 traffic accidents, Lieutenant-Colonel Jamal Al Bannai, deputy director of Dubai Police’s traffic department, told Gulf News.
In the country as a whole, 315 people died in road accidents through the first half of 2017, according to the UAE Ministry of Interior’s General Directorate of Traffic Coordination.
While it’s relatively easy to prevent certain types of accidents – for example, by shifting out of the fast lane when you spot someone above the speed limit coming up behind – other dangers arrive with less notice. When it comes to the safety of their loved ones, it’s a parent’s responsibility to be aware of these threats.
We profile the biggest road risks you might not see coming, and the in-car technology that could help.
Watch out for poor lane discipline
Whether driver or passenger, everyone who has ever travelled on a UAE road has witnessed this. Lane swerving occurs when a vehicle abruptly switches into another track without indicating.
According to data from the Ministry of Interior, more than 20 per cent of deaths in UAE traffic accidents can be attributed to lane swerving.
In a 2016 RoadSafetyUAE survey of more than 1,000 people in the country, 24 per cent said they don’t use an indicator while driving because the traffic around them demands too much focus to do so. More worryingly, another 24 per cent believe that indicating on roads is a sign of either driving weakness or inexperience.
However, even drivers who do indicate may find themselves in an accident – 142 traffic incidents at least partly stemmed from drivers failing to check their blind spot when changing lanes.
While driving instructors are at pains to teach learners the importance of checking their shoulder after the mirror, technology can be handy. For example, the Size Blind Zone Alert in the Premier edition of the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox warns drivers of a vehicle in the SUV’s blind spot through a small icon lighting up at the edge of their side mirrors.
Should the vehicle drift out of its lane, the steering wheel lets its drivers know with tactile feedback in the form of a discrete nudge.
Sometimes traffic suddenly slows as you approach an exit, and this can often result in fender-benders. At speeds under 80kph, the Equinox’s radar front-mounted radar detects these slow-downs and commands the SUV to brake.
Another interesting addition is the driver’s Safety Alert Seat, which vibrates on its right side when the Equinox detects a danger coming from that direction.
Beware of queue jumpers
If you’re trying to take the same single-lane exit as a number of other cars, this can result in a few minutes lost waiting in line. For some, this is too much. Queue jumpers will roll past the vehicles waiting in line before stopping at its head with indicator on. They expect someone to pause their forward movement and allow them in.
This behaviour is not only inconsiderate but also dangerous. If the highway in question is the E11, for example, a vehicle suddenly stopping in its lane on this high-speed road could have serious consequences for those behind it.
In some vehicles, the aforementioned automatic braking kicks should a car cut in front under a certain speed. Many even offer a Forward Collision Alert, which relies on a radar that warns a driver of a vehicle suddenly slowing down up ahead.
The Equinox has both, so you and the rest of the family can feel a little bit safer from another unexpected threat – although it’s no substitute for the human eye’s own power of observation.
Don’t reverse recklessly
Backing out of a tight parking spot can sometimes be a tricky endeavour. A driver’s field of view may be restricted by the vehicles sitting alongside, so it can be an inch-by-inch, painstaking process to get your car out and back on the road. A typical example of this is in school lots, which are often overwhelmed by hundreds of cars in a brief 20-minute window every morning ahead of the day’s first classes.
Reversing out of a spot without being aware of cars around you could result in a nasty clip to the rear bumper. Safety features such as a rear view camera with guiding lines can be helpful.
This feature, which is standard across a number of 2018 vehicles, can be even more effective when combined with a radar system that detects cars approaching outside the camera’s field of view.
Don’t let you and your loved ones become a statistic. Follow the rules, stay aware on the road and think about the kind of vehicle you want to rely on for transporting your family safely through the UAE.