Slow moving traffic on Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Road on Wednesday afternoon as motorists drive home before Iftar time. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: With Ramadan timings bringing in additional traffic challenges on the road, motorists and pedestrians in the UAE have been urged to strictly follow road safety guidelines to avoid accidents.

According to the police, most accidents in Ramadan take place just before sunset as a result of speeding or jumping the red signal while motorists hurry home for iftar.

Brigadier General Ahmed Sam Al Naqbi, Head of the Traffic Awareness and Safety Team at the Federal Traffic Council at the Ministry of Interior, told Gulf News that traffic and security patrols have been intensified, particularly around mosques and markets.

He said drivers, especially young ones, speeding up to arrive on time for iftar causes many accidents.

“During previous years, the department recorded many minor accidents caused like this,” he said.

“The month of Ramadan is special. We advise motorists to focus on the road and not to be distracted by anything, and to stop and take rest if they are tired. We advise the public to set a suitable schedule for leaving work and arriving home at an appropriate time before iftar.”

The month of Ramadan is special. We advise motorists to focus on the road and not to be distracted by anything, and to stop and take rest if they are tired.

- Brig. Gen. Ahmed Sam Al Naqbi

If they are on the road, he said, fasting motorists could break the fast with iftar meals distributed by charity organisations. “We also urge motorists, especially young people, to refrain from performing road stunts. We have doubled the fines for such offences,” he reminded.

Parents are urged not to allow their children to drive vehicles without a licence or cause nuisance to others with late-night bike races, he added.

A traffic official also appealed to motorists to refrain from rushing for iftar.

Captain Suad Al Sheiba, director of traffic awareness branch at Sharjah Police Traffic and Patrol Department, told Gulf News: “We urge motorists not to rush before iftar as this put them, their family and others at risk. Drivers should adhere to the speed limit and maintain a safe distance and drive responsibly, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.”

He also called on drivers with diabetes and other health conditions to follow up on their health throughout the fasting period. If they are not feeling up to the mark, they should stop their vehicles on the hard shoulder of the road and call an ambulance through the central operating room to obtain medical support, said Captain Al Sheiba.

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Changed habits

Thomas Edelmann, founder and managing director of RoadSafetyUAE

consultancy firm, pointed out that changed Ramadan work hours lead to traffic pile ups when people rush home.

Thomas Edelmann

“Ramadan is a very special time and it’s all about being with the ones close to you, which creates a lot of traffic. This festive time also brings very unique challenges for all traffic participants. It is sad to witness hundreds of accidents and dozens of fatalities during the holy month every year,” he observed.

How fasting affects behaviour

People tend to be exhausted and inattentive on the road because the Ramadan-specific lifestyle has physical effects on our body, especially if Ramadan coincides with the hot weather.

Though Ramadan this year is not in the scorching summer, Edelmann pointed out that fasting can still result in dehydration and low blood sugar, which in turn can affect our attentiveness, concentration, vision and reaction.

Although there are many advantages to Ramadan, the daily fasting schedule makes dehydration a serious concern, pointed out Dr Mais M Mauwfak, specialist internal medicine, Thumbay University Hospital, Ajman.

Dr Mais M Mauwfak

“As Ramadan goes on, this tendency toward dehydration tends to increase gradually. It is possible for symptoms to appear, which could affect how well we perform at work, when driving, or at home. These symptoms could include weakness, dizziness, joint discomfort, difficulty urinating, lack of concentration, body cramps, blurred vision, and headaches,” she explained.

Dr Mauwfak said it is critical to make sure you consume enough water each day — ideally 1.5 to 2 litres — to reduce the impact of dehydration. “Prioritising water and food balance throughout Ramadan is essential for preserving general health and guaranteeing safety while individuals carry out their daily tasks including driving. Maintaining a high-fibre diet also helps you stay hydrated to a typical level. Avoiding foods high in salt is imperative. People who take medicines for underlying medical issues should continue taking it as prescribed,” she added.

Echoing the doctor’s comment, Edelmann said: “In addition to fasting, the often unusual and irregular meal timings and sleep patterns can cause fatigue, exhaustion, impatience and distraction, which is reflected in early morning accident peaks.”

He said the rush on the roads is a mix of psychological urges and physical needs and motorists might use this as an excuse to misbehave on the roads. “Hence, all traffic participants — motorists, pedestrians, motorcycle riders, bicyclists, etc — must be extra careful at this time,” he cautioned.

10 major mistakes

According to Ras Al Khaimah Police, 10 major mistakes that road users make while driving that cause fatal accidents include: speeding, especially before iftar time; exhaustion and fatigue due to lack of sleep; wrong overtaking; reckless driving; not leaving enough distance between vehicles; lack of lane discipline; using a mobile phone while driving; reversing the vehicle without making sure the road is clear; not paying attention and entering the road before it is clear; and not estimating the correct distance on the part of road users as a result of lack of concentration during fasting.

Police guidelines

UAE Police regularly issue safe driving guidelines for Ramadan. Top officials urge motorists to buckle up, adhere to the speed limit, maintain a safe distance and drive defensively.

The police also appealed to community members to exercise caution and not to let their children go out of the house, especially just before iftar, to prevent accidents near residential buildings, on internal roads and in public parks.

How to do it right always

• Wear a seat belt

• Follow the speed limit

• Leave safe distance between vehicles

• Avoid using mobile phone and other distractions

• Signal when changing lanes

• Drive defensively

• Park on the hard shoulder if you’re feeling unwell and call for help.

• Do not perform road stunts

How to do it right as a fasting driver

• Do not speed before iftar

• Be aware of your own potential limitations.

• Watch out for other traffic participants potentially under the same effects.

• Expect the unexpected — all must drive defensively

• Plan for possible delays and add a time buffer.

• Always wear your seat belt.

• Watch out in the rush-hours and close to iftar time.

• Motorists should try to anticipate sudden movements by others, including cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.

• Keep a sufficient distance between their vehicle and don’t tailgate.

• Plan your schedules properly and leave early to avoid the need of rushing and speeding.

• You can run a little bit late — people will understand.

• Stay off the roads at sundown, if you can avoid it.

• Use your lights during dusk, before iftar

• Do not crowd vehicles around mosques and obstruct traffic

• Avoid fatigue and get enough sleep.

• Pull over immediately when you become drowsy or tired.

• Use public transport or taxis when possible.

How to do it right — as non-fasting driver/pedestrian/passenger

• Be considerate and generous to other traffic participants who might fast!

• All traffic participants — fasting and non-fasting — must be extra careful during Ramadan!

• Especially, ‘weaker’ traffic participants (pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist) must watch out for potentially irrational behaviour of other traffic participants!

• Apply the same defensive driving approach like fasting traffic participants.

• Be very careful in the peak accident morning rush hours, early afternoon and close to iftar time.

• Try to stay off the roads if possible.

Source: Police/RoadSafetyUAE