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TA traffic_311.(Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Increase in traffic accidents in the UAE
Police say Ramadan and bad driving habits to blame.
As the sun starts to go down after the blistering heat of the day, drivers in Dubai rush to get home for the last prayer of the day and then the iftar, the break-fast meal. But Dubai police say they may be rushing just a little too much. Dubai police have reported some 3600 traffic accidents, and two fatalities, since the beginning of Ramadan.

“In 10 days, 195 of the accidents that occurred half an hour before iftar were caused by motorists speeding and driving recklessly, regularly changing lanes and not keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front,” Brigadier General Omar Abdul Aziz Al Shamsi, of the Dubai police told Gulf News.

Residents of the UAE say there are always more accidents during Ramadan, both because people are rushing and because the fast from sunrise to sunset can make them tired, especially in the heat.

“I tell my students that they should drive carefully and buckle their seat belts,” Ahmed el-Hussein, a professor of political science at the UAE University told The Media Line. “This country’s youth is killing itself on the streets.”

He said most of the students in his summer courses stay up most of the night after the iftar, hanging out with friends. They pray the dawn prayer at around 4:15 p.m. and then sleep for a few hours before coming to class at 8 am.

Beyond the heat and the tiredness caused by fasting, many young people don’t buckle their seat belts, he says.

“It’s seen as something unsophisticated or naïve to do,” he said. “They laugh at me when they see me buckle my seat belt.”

Police have instituted stiff fines of up to $10,000 for speeding, but the penalties are rarely enforced, he said.

Police said that Emiratis are famous for texting while driving. Last year, when BlackBerry services were disrupted, police said there was a dramatic drop in traffic accidents.

In 2010, police set up 32 mobile radar units and 39 radar guns to catch speeders and other traffic violators. In a year, they captured almost two million traffic violations.

This year, police are also trying a new way to cut down on traffic violations. They are handing out food packages for iftar to motorists a few minutes before the fast ends to try to encourage people not to speed on their way to break the fast.

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