Francis Salado Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Campaigns, indepth reports, reader complaints... you name it, and it has been done by Gulf News to raise awareness about this particular problem - people using their mobile phones while driving. The authorities have talked about it in great detail, too. But, it seems to have little or no impact, with people continuing to violate this basic safety measure - do not drive and use your phone at the same time. Even using a handsfree unit is fraught with danger, as it distracts the driver. And a second’s lapse in attention can cost a lifetime. There is global research that shows people engaged on their mobile phones while driving are as impaired in their response time as a drunk driver. However, the importance of the issue seems to be lost on many.

The main winning community report, ‘Focus on the rod, not on your mobile phone’, by Gulf News reader Afzal A., published on October 1, talks about the same issue, especially when there is a traffic jam and cars fail to move forward because the driver is too busy chatting on his or her phone. According to the website think.direct.gov.uk, “you’re four times more likely to crash if you use a mobile phone while driving”. And this is so because apparently the reaction time of drivers on the phone is “50 per cent slower than normal driving”. This applies to texting, too.

The reader reporter discusses the increased probability of crashes, along with more traffic snarls because people aren’t paying enough attention to the road. All of this just adds to driving stress, which too has a direct impact on one’s health. So, stop texting and talking on the phone while driving, as you are endangering several lives and being a real nuisance to other road users.

Second place goes to the report, ‘Satwa roundabout needs cameras urgently’, by Bristow Parambi, published on October 6. It looks at a very busy area of Dubai and highlights the illegal turns drivers are taking near pedestrian crossing, because the sign warning them against it is not placed clearly enough. A safety crossing which endangers people’s lives is a bit of an anomaly and that is what the article highlights. The community report was escalated to the Roads and transport Authority, who acknowledged the observation and are now working to take remedial action by putting up a larger sign advising motorists that they cannot take a right turn at that point.

Third place goes to the report, ‘RTA urged to probe bike thefts at station’, by Francis Salado, published on October 20. It focused on the problem of bicycles or their parts being stolen from Al Nahda Metro Station, which is saddening. For many, bicycles offer a healthy, cheap and budget friendly option, especially when using the rail system. This kind of behaviour just adds to their woes. The Roads and Transport Authority has promised to increase the number of checks in the area, along with discussing the problem with Dubai Police.

All the three reports bring under scrutiny important community issues, which might have gone unnoticed if not raised. A commendable effort by the community reporters, indeed.

- With inputs by Sanya Nayeem/Readers Editor

PROFILES

First: Afzal A.

Published on October 1, 2014.

Afzal A. is a civil engineer and works in a Dubai based construction company. He wants to raise awareness about things that are wrong.

He said: “I was searching for a platform where we can raise our issues and problems that requires the attention of the authorities or public. Even though I used to share some issues via social media, there are limitations as one post will reach a limited number of people only. But through Gulf News, it will reach a large number of people. I appreciate the newspaper for giving an oppurtunity to the readers to share their issues, complaints and concerns via community reports. For a common man to show his concerns and worries related to the public, such a platform is a necessary element.”

Through his winning report, he raised the issue of distracted driving and focused on people using their smartphones while they drive.

He said: “After my report was published, I informed many of my friends regarding this option of community reports in Gulf News. They were happy to see me raise a relevant issue and wanted to share their own concerns about things that bother them.”

 

Second: Bristow Parambi

Published on October 6, 2014

Bristow Parambi, a packaging technologist based in Sharjah, wrote about the Satwa roundabout in Dubai and how motorists are taking wrong turns and putting pedestrians at risk.

He said: “I discussed the same matter with my friends and family who are residing in the Satwa area. They all have this concern, especially when they’re crossing the road with their children. Children will see that the signal for pedestrians is green and cross the road. Suddenly a vehicle travelling at a high speed comes to the same lane because the motorist may not have realised that a right turn is not allowed at this intersection. This is a concern for parents and now many of them don’t allow their children to go out alone. The issue needs to be addressed.”

His concerns were raised with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), who stated that they had studied the case and planned to in install a larger and clearer sign. Parambi said: “There have been no changes in the area so far. No cameras or signboards have been added. I’m waiting for the authorities to implement the changes.”

 

Third: Francis Salado

Published on October 20, 2014

Francis Salado, an engineer based in Dubai, raised the issue of bicycles being stolen from outside the Dubai Metro stations.

He said: “At the Al Nahda Metro Station, it is quite dark outside during the evening hours as there aren’t too many lampposts there. I park my bicycle here on a daily basis along with many other people from my neighbourhood. When my cycle and that of many people I knew were stolen, I decided to write to Gulf News. I had spoken to the officers at the station, but they couldn’t help me. One of my colleagues also parks his cycle at this station and five bicycles have been stolen so far! He now walks to the station from his home.”

The reader’s concerns were also raised with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). They promised to ensure that the staff in the Metro stations would keep a random check on the bicycle stands.

Salado said: “I did once see a few of the staff members outside the station, so they must be keeping a random check. But, my concern is that no one checks during the evening, which is when the thieves can strike. I hope the authorities increase the random checks to throughout the day.”

- Profiles compiled by Rabab Khan/Community Interactivity Editor