There appears to be a growing number of people using their phones for calling and texting while driving on UAE roads. Even smoking and eating in cars has become quite common. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Tougher punishments for people who use their phones when driving may help reduce deaths on roads, a top Dubai Police officer told Gulf News.

Brigadier Saif Muhair Al Mazroui, Director of Dubai Traffic Police, said the current fine of Dh200 and four black points are not enough to prevent people from indulging in this poor practice as there has been an increase in the number of this violation in the past four years.

“A more stiff fine should be imposed on people. The Federal Traffic Council had previously recommended that the penalty be increased to Dh1,000, 12 black points and impounding of the vehicle for 30 days. Such a punishment is most likely to make people stop using their phones when driving,” Brig Al Mazroui said.

In an exclusive interview for Gulf News, Brig Al Mazroui said they are waiting for the approval of the new penalties to crack down on violators.

“Using a mobile phone paralyses the driver’s brain. People who use mobile phones while driving are like drunken drivers, they are a danger to themselves and to others.”

Last year, Dubai Police recorded 59,891 cases of people using phones while driving, an increase from 49,643 in 2015. In 2014, police recorded 45,499 such offences while in 2013, 35,734 such cases were recorded.

Brig Al Mazroui said these figures show more and more people are taking to this bad behaviour. “Many people are seen checking their social media accounts or reading emails and taking selfies while driving. A mobile phone can become a deadly device if it’s in the hands of drivers.”

Despite Dubai Police’s awareness campaigns held every year, some people still think that speaking on the phone when driving is a normal behaviour and that it won’t affect them in any way.

“Think about your family before using your mobile phone while driving. Always remember that your family may not see you again because you insist on checking your social media account while driving and may die in a traffic accident as a result,” Brig Al Mazroui said.

People should also not use their mobile phones when waiting at a traffic light, as it is also a violation, “We have the power to fine people who use a mobile phone while waiting for the traffic signal to change. It can cause traffic delays, as well as accidents.”

He spoke of an accident in which a man was crushed to death and while extricating his body, officials found a mobile phone in his hand. Another accident last year involved a female doctor who hit a lorry from behind because she was busy using her mobile phone while driving.

Highlighting another facet of this problem, Brig Al Mazroui said, “If someone does not understand the danger of using a mobile phone when driving, it does not matter how much the fine is or how many times they are warned. It is a mind-set and it needs to be changed through awareness.”

Though it cannot be definitively determined if an accident was caused due to distracted driving, in some cases, it would be the only explanation, he added. “Many people use their phones in cars despite knowing its dangers. People must be careful, especially on highways, as they need to focus on the road. Accidents on highways are invariably deadly.”

Statistics by Dubai Police revealed that last year, 198 people died in traffic accidents compared to 166 people in 2015.

Not paying enough attention on the road caused 42 deaths.


Tips from Dubai Police

If a driver needs to use the phone, they must park their vehicle on the roadside first.

Do not use phone while waiting for the traffic light to change.

Turn off the internet when behind the wheel.