View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

U.A.E. Pedestrian Crossings: The Most Dangerous Place to Be

Traditionally, children are taught to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing believing that if they are walking on these lines, they will be safe.

The pedestrian crossing is one of the most dangerous places to be in the U.A.E. Lulled into thinking they have protection, pedestrians in the U.A.E. quickly discover that they usually do not have the right of way.

Massive education about pedestrian crossings is required in the United Arab Emirates to make people safe. For instance, does the U.A.E. road law require (as some countries have introduced recently) that vehicles must stop when a pedestrian steps onto the crossing, even when they are on the other side of the road?

To see a car stop for a pedestrian at a crossing is such a rare sight that when it occurs the pedestrian looks astonished and then appears like a child walking across the stage to collect a prize.

Because of this crossing culture it is dangerous for drivers to stop for pedestrians. The likely result is for unsuspecting cars to ram you from behind. Drivers seeking to change the culture will usually decide to stop after ensuring that there are no cars close behind and as they slow to a stop they may activate their emergency lights to warn others that this unusual phenomenon is about to occur.

Beyond the need for education for both drivers and pedestrians, some other challenges for the Ministry of Interior include:

* Developing better signs (black and white poles, flashing yellow beacons, zig-zag road markings) to indicate the approach of a pedestrian crossing

* Repainting crossings where the paint has pealed or faded (this is needed especially in towns like Dhaid where the large number of trucks passing through the main street quickly erase the white lines)

* Installing different types of crossings which are appropriate to the width of the road, the volume of traffic and the speed zone.

My grandfather was killed when he was walking across a pedestrian crossing. Pedestrian crossing education and law enforcement is not an academic issue. It is a matter of life and death.

Geoff Pound

Image: Pedestrian crossing at night.