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Heavy morning fog. The National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) has also recently called on motorists to take all precautions and follow the traffic regulations whenever there is a chance of fog formation or strong winds. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: With the change in weather, the occurrence of dust storms and fog are expected to increase in the coming days and weeks, resulting in reduced visibility in varying degrees on roads across the UAE.

A couple of weeks ago, Abu Dhabi Police urged motorists to drive safely during foggy weather by sticking to the reduced speed limit of 80km/hr and leaving an adequate distance from other vehicles. Due to the drop in visibility during foggy weather, the capital’s traffic department also activated the speed reduction system as a preventive measure aimed at reducing road accidents.

The National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) has also recently called on motorists to take all precautions and follow the traffic regulations whenever there is a chance of fog formation or strong winds that result in blowing dust and deterioration in horizontal visibility on the road.

Multiple accidents

Last April, a woman was injured in a 28-vehicle crash on Emirates Road in Dubai as dense fog engulfed various parts of the country. The accident first happened between two vehicles as they failed to keep safe distance despite poor visibility. As they stopped on the road, more than two dozen vehicles crashed behind them, which led to a massive traffic jam during the early-morning rush hour.

In February 2018, Dubai Police recorded as many as 564 accidents and received a total of 3,564 emergency calls due to dense fog. Among the accidents reported, nine people were injured in a car pile-up involving 28 vehicles on Emirates Road. The accident time took place at 7.30am as heavy fog reduced visibility to less than 500m.

Pay heed to alerts

Whenever there are fog warnings, authorities immediately reduce speed limits on some major roads and advice drivers to increase the distance between vehicles to avoid accidents and to never overtake/change lanes in low visibility conditions. Fog alerts likewise are sent to motorists via social media platforms and SMS messages as well as through smart gate screens on all highways and internal roads, and electronic billboards. Heavy vehicles, trucks and buses, meanwhile, are banned on the roads during fog.

The penalty for not adhering to safe driving instructions during fog is Dh500 and four black points, according to the Federal Traffic Law.

Education as best mitigation

But more than the fines, the best mitigation is always education. Brigadier Saif Muhair Al Mazroui, director of the General Department of Traffic at Dubai Police, earlier said: “Drivers must abide by traffic rules and keep themselves updated with weather updates.”

He also called on drivers not to stop in the middle of the roads and urged them to switch to low-beam headlights, increase the distance between other vehicles, and slow down.

Constant reminder

Thomas Edelmann

Thomas Edelmann, founder and managing director of RoadSafetyUAE, also believes in giving motorists constant reminders. He told Gulf News: “Driving in bad weather in the UAE is often linked to fog, rain or sandstorms with low visibility and slippery road surfaces being the common denominators. Every year, we suffer pile-ups which are typically chain reactions. One accident occurs, sometimes just a small fender bender, and following motorists cannot avoid colliding with obstacles in front of them, due to the lack of proper distance, lack of attention or too high speeds.”

Edelmann also shared the following safety tips:

•When visibility is down, slow down; attention up and distance up.

•Adjust your speed so you can always stop within the distance of visibility. Again, slow down!

•Attention Up! Concentrate and do not get distracted by your passengers, your phone or other things.

•Increase the distance from three seconds in good weather to a minimum of five seconds — you must be able to stop within the distance of visibility.

•Turn on the lights: low beam head lights, front and rear fog lights. Definitely no hazard lights.

•Take care of others, especially ‘weaker’ traffic participants like motorcycle drivers, bicycle riders and pedestrians.

•Consider longer braking distances due to wet or slippery road surface.

•In rain, reduce your speed to avoid aquaplaning.

•Use your windscreen wipers properly and maintain them properly.

•Use your heater and A/C to avoid fogging of the wind screen.

•Listen to the radio for traffic updates.

•Ask your passengers to help keep an eye out for oncoming cars and obstacles on the road.

•Stay in your lane and don’t drift – there’s a natural tendency to wander into the middle of the road when visibility gets bad.

•Use the lane marks or the right edge of the road as a guide – this can help you avoid running into oncoming traffic or being blinded by oncoming headlights.

•If you have no visibility, pull over to the side of the road and turning on your hazard lights alert other drivers of where you are, or pull into petrol stations or rest areas.

•Plan your trip properly and leave earlier or try not to be on the road at all, if possible.

Watch out for:

•Do not use hazard lights (they are meant for standing cars in case of an emergency).

•Do not use rear fog lights during normal visibility, since they can blind following drivers and rear fog lights can over-power your brake lights, hence following drivers might not see you braking.

•Stay away from areas which are normally affected by bad weather, like wadis.

•In case of rain, avoid low lying parts of the roads network like underpasses.

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Tips from Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) when driving during inclement weather

Driving in dusty weather:

> Before driving in dusty weather ensure that all your car headlights work well.

Please be careful while driving in dusty weather and reduce your speed while switching lanes for your safety and that of others.

> If the weather gets dusty while driving, close your windows and turn on the AC for your safety on the road.

Drive during foggy weather:

> For a safe and comfortable drive during foggy weather conditions, stay to the right side of your lane to stay clear from vehicles coming from the opposite direction.

> When driving in the fog, keep an eye on your speed and ensure you have your fog lights on.

> Use your vehicle signals when necessary to warn vehicles coming from behind.

> Do not drive in the fog with your high beam lights as it reduces the visibility, instead drive with your fog lights on.

> If it is foggy outside and you have to stop your car, park it on the side of the road away from passing cars and ensure to turn your hazard lights on.

> Relieve pressure on the accelerator and use the brakes if necessary.

Driving in the rain:

> Check the validity of the brakes, tyres and headlights of your vehicle before starting your journey.

> Before driving in the rain, whether it is a short trip or not, make sure your wipers work well for a safe journey.

> If you have to drive in the rain, always double the safety distance between you and the vehicle ahead for your safety and that of others.

> Drive slowly when it is raining so you can always keep control of your car and not worry about having to stop suddenly behind other vehicles.

> Always follow traffic signs and do not instantly press on the accelerator when the traffic light turns green so you do not lose control on the slippery roads.

> Driving in the rain requires you to focus more. Do not overtake other vehicles except in ideal conditions.