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

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reducing Traffic Accidents on UAE Roads

UAE High Traffic Injury Rates
The UAE has another world record and this time it is a record to be concerned about. Traffic injury rates are among the highest in the world in the UAE.

The United Arab Emirates is seeking to do something about this problem. It has ditched the alarming and graphic TV campaigns used extensively in other countries as these have been shown to have little effect.

The UAE is hiring Canadian injury prevention specialist Dr Peter Barss who has been overseeing workshops in UAE high schools, delivered by trained medical students. These have shown statistically significant differences in safety knowledge and attitudes to road safety. Barss is in Queensland, Australia at present conducting seminars and speaking about his work in the UAE.

Country’s Safety Culture
Understanding a country's safety culture is an important factor, according to Dr Barss. He said, “There are varying degrees of a safety culture in different countries. In Sweden, people are very safety conscious. Energy absorbing roadside barriers are being introduced there. At the other end of the spectrum are developing countries, some of them very wealthy, where destiny and faith are strong beliefs and there is a fatalism associated with whether a road crash is going to happen.”

In ša’ Allāh إن شاء الله
The Arabic term, in ša’ Allāh إن شاء الله has a richness of meaning and the concept is common to other faiths as well as to Islam. It is translated as ‘God willing’ or ‘If it is God’s will’. It is a valuable rider so that we are encouraged to make plans but offer them to higher wisdom, filtering, adjustment or dismissal by God. “Please get your homework done by next Tuesday,” says the teacher. “Yes, in ša’ Allāh إن شاء الله,” says the student. Like all good things, in ša’ Allāh إن شاء الله can be distorted or wrongly used to absolve oneself from personal responsibility.

Getting back to the road, Dr Barss is hinting at the way that in ša’ Allāh إن شاء الله can be used fatalistically—“If an accident happens, it happens.” A distorted understanding can also mean that this will happen regardless or what I do and don’t do so there is no point in buckling up the safety belt. Taken one notch further is the erroneous and prevalent view that the doing up of one’s safety belt is a sign of a lack of trust in the power of God to protect and care for the driver.

In the UAE a passenger got into the car and immediately did up her safety belt. The driver took this as an affront to her driving ability and said, “Don’t you trust my driving?”

Allah Helps those who help Themselves
An old saying from the Islamic tradition puts it well: “Trust in Allah and tie up your camel.” Perhaps a more contemporary rendering that expresses both God’s care and human responsibility is this: ‘Trust in Allah and do up your safety belt.’

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Another car accident in the UAE.