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Dubai: It takes the loss of a loved one to make you realise the seriousness of life and death. For 35-year-old French expatriate Meriem Bouhouche it was the death of her best friend.

“We don’t know exactly what happened to him — it was late at night and we don’t know if he was tired or fell asleep. He passed away in a road accident,” Bouhouche told Gulf News.

That was back in 2009. It took her almost six months to come to terms with the loss and memories of her best friend. To remove the pain, Bouhouche said she started reading up on road safety and distracted driving.

“He was a terrible driver — talking on the phone all the time, driving fast, texting, not maitaining safe distance ... you name it — he was doing everything you must not do while driving, and I’ve never been more scared than when I was in the passenger seat than when I was next to him. I actually told him once, ‘You’re going to die in a car accident if you drive like this.’ Of course, I never meant it.”

But now, she understands how true her warning was. The loss of her friend shook her to the core, she did not want to die in a similar accident. Her research made her realise how widespread and serious the problem of distracted driving is in the UAE. She is trying to launch a nationwide awareness campaign and is open to all volunteers and organisations that would like to make it a reality.

All this after only having known her best friend for a year. But that is the kind of person her friend was, according to Bouhouche. His family, in France, came to the UAE on learning about the accident to complete the formalities related to his death. Bouhouche said losing a son who was loved not only by family but everyone who knew him was devastating.

“He was always smiling and positive; a very giving person. Whether it was a contact, some money or any other help, he was always ready to give. I know that every body in his work and personal life loved him. It was a big loss for everyone.”

Losing a person who was such a positive influence on people’s lives was another reason to push Bouhouche towards starting the awareness drive.

She said: “I was just one normal person driving on the road. I would use my phone, too. I wouldn’t stop on the roadside to attend a call until I faced [my friend’s death] and it made me think.

“You don’t want people to go through that. You want them to understand before anything like this happens. People think they can do two things together — drive and text, drive and talk, drive and change tracks on their music system. But they can’t.”