There are 111 ambulance points in Dubai, and yet the goal for emergency vehicles reaching their destination on time remains a challenge — thanks to motorists who continue to be an impediment by not giving way in time. It cannot be emphasised enough why this is such a critical problem. Every motorist who obstructs or slows down an emergency vehicle, such as an ambulance, is potentially ruining the chances of someone somewhere being saved back to life. And the Give Way ... Give Hope campaign, launched in Dubai last week, is yet another attempt by the authorities to educate motorists on their basic responsibilities.
The concept of right of way, especially for emergency vehicles, is at the core of the driving discipline. It is one of the most important determinants of the degree of safety, and driver etiquette, on the roads. Right of way is also one of the basic subjects that is covered in theory and in practice in all driver training curriculums, including in Dubai. What then explains the behaviour of motorists who display shockingly slow responses when it comes to making way for an ambulance in full mode that is clearly headed towards a critical situation?
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Dubai Police are making determined efforts to tackle this apathy through various means. Punitive measures are, of course, strong medicine for the indifferent: a new fine of Dh3,000, up from Dh1,000, vehicle confiscation and six back points will hopefully make a difference. Last year, 358 drivers were fined in the UAE for not giving way to emergency vehicles. In Dubai, the numbers of motorists fined for this offence has been, thankfully, coming down over the last few years: 166 motorists fined in 2018, compared to 247 the previous year. But should there be even one case of an apathetic driver who does not heed the call of the siren?
In another new initiative that pays heed to the adage of forewarned being forearmed, Dubai Police is experimenting with the idea of alerting drivers about the arrival of emergency vehicles on their route through broadcast messages sent through radio.
These are all effective, and pragmatic, approaches to tackle the problem. But they do not absolve motorists of their primary, and ultimate, responsibility: giving the right of way to an emergency vehicle. That’s where the real solution lies, because someone’s life depends on it.
So, please get out of the way.