Road Traffic Accidents


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It is revealed by a comparative analysis of accidents among drivers on the roads that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have the most accidents. In terms of the rates of road accident fatality, the states have considerably higher rates when compared to other regions. Globally, road traffic accidents have been shown to be 11th on the list of the most common causes of deaths. In the developing world, the problem is worse compared to the developed world. The accidents have also been revealed to be the leading causes of fatalities in the developing nations. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), reduction in road accidents has progressed at a very slow rate over the last decades. Given the reality that road transport is the primary means of transportation in the country, the accident menace is a serious one calling for immediate response (Hammoudi, 2014). Given that the current approaches to reducing the accidents have not worked, it is high time that more effective strategies are sought.

Road Traffic Accidents among Drivers

Also, referred to as motor vehicle accidents, these are the accidents that result from collisions of a motor vehicle with another, road debris, an animal, person or other immobile obstructions like a pole or tree. The collisions result from the state of the driver or the obstruction leading to loss of lives, injuries or loss of properties. In most of the cases that such accidents occur, the driver is normally at fault, which means that a significant percentage of the accidents can be prevented. Globally, the accidents are serious issues because of the resulting economic loss for both individuals and the entire society. If the accidents could be prevented, it simply means that many lives can be spared and property saved from the damage. In the UAE, just like other developing nations, the accidents are claiming many lives (Hammoudi, 2014). Road traffic accidents are a daily occurrence in the country, considering those which are reported because there are many others, mostly minor accidents, which go unreported.

Road traffic accidents have remained a critical issue globally, leading to loss of lives and maiming many other people. The accidents lead to deaths, injuries, and property loss for those who are involved in the accidents. Phillips, Ulleberg and Vaa (2011) posited that the cost of road traffic accidents is huge, providing the rationale for strategies to reduce them. United Arab Emirates is one of the countries in the Middle East that have been experiencing speedy economic development based on their energy production capacity. With the economic development, there has also been an increase in the rate of motorization (vehicle per 1000 population). Expansion in the construction of roads in the country has increased the frequency at which the motorists are using this mode of transportation. The development has also become the basis for the many accidents that are reported and recorded in the country.

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Prevalence of Road Traffic Accidents

The necessity for understanding the trends and statistics of road traffic accidents is founded on the importance of this information in designing ways of reducing the casualties. Towards this end, Grivna et al. (2012) performed an analysis of the current data to establish the prevailing trends in relation to the accidents as well as the potential approaches to dealing with this issue. The article revealed a change in the trends, but pointed to the criticality of designing more effective strategies because the present ones do not seem to be effective in achieving the objective of reducing the road traffic accidents in the UAE. However, the results of many studies reveal disparities in reporting, measures of outcome, and the risk factors behind the problem. It is plausible to note that the accidents that are included in most statistics are those which have been reported to the police and recorded. Hence, it is possible that the numbers could be higher based on number of accidents that go Unreported.

Internationally, each year, it is estimated that as many as 1.3 million people die as a result of road traffic accidents. Just like the global statistics of accidents and the resulting deaths, there has been a slight reduction of the number of accidents and deaths in the UAE over the last few years. However, there is still a lack of comprehensive assessment of the road traffic accidents in the UAE. The findings from a number of studies have played a critical role in shedding some light on the extent of the problem in the country. Statistics from the Ministry of Interior provides reliable sources of data on the recent trends in the road traffic accidents in the country. According to the data given between 2010 and 2011, the results indicate a decline in the number of deaths resulting from the accidents, from 826 to 720. Figure 1 below indicates the distribution of the total number of accidents in the country in 2011 (Hammoudi, Karani & Littlewood, 2014).

Nonetheless, experts suggest that the reduction in the rates of fatality is not a reflection of major changes in the road traffic accident rates and resulting injuries. It is possible that there were more accidents and resulting injuries even if the number of deaths decreased.

(Source: Hammoudi, Karani & Littlewood, 2014).

Statistics indicate that the rates of accidents tend to vary with age, with a majority of accidents being caused by drivers in the age bracket of 18 to 35 years. The group is responsible for over 50% of the total accidents and deaths resulting from the accidents in the UAE. Although the number of deaths has been on the decline, the statistics have revealed an increase in those accidents resulting in the death and injury of young drivers in the country. It is also noted that there has been an increase in the number of violations of traffic rules and general ignorance among the young drivers. The data from the Ministry of Interior indicates that, in comparison, although there are more vehicles and registered drivers in Dubai, there are more accidents in Abu Dhabi (Hammoudi, Karani & Littlewood, 2014). Hence, there is evidence indicating that there are more drivers responsible for road traffic accidents in Abu Dhabi than in Dubai. Hence, the information indicates the need for more concerted efforts to address the problem.

Road traffic accidents come with a serious economic cost to the country. The resulting injuries are estimated to cost 2 percent of the country’s Gross National Product (GNP) within the developed states, while it costs 1.5 percent of the GDP in the developing countries. The accidents are predicted to cost the global society approximately US$518 billion (Hammoudi, Karani & Littlewood, 2014). It is estimated that in the UAE a single death resulting from an accident cost approximately USD 2 million. Severe injuries are also associated with huge costs, with a single major one costing between USD 1 to 1.5 million. It costs less for a medium injury at approximately USD 300,000, and around USD 150,000 when the injury is minor. In terms of treatment, the overall treatment for injuries caused by accidents in the ICU in Tawam’s Central hospitals is approximated at USD 22 million per year (Hammoudi, Karani & Littlewood, 2014). The reality indicates a major strain on the economy of the country and the loss of production from the accidents, which means that there should be more effective means of addressing the problem to save the cost on society and individuals.

The loss of production as a result of the road accidents in the country is informed by the age bracket that is mostly affected by the problem. At the age of between 18 and 45, people are normally at the peak of their productive age. It is at this age where they are expected to contribute most towards the economic growth of the country. Hence, death at this age is a major blow to the economy of the country (Grivna et al., 2012). Another reality is that young males make up the most deaths and injuries resulting from the accidents. These individuals are the most likely to be involved in dangerous driving leading to most collisions and road crashes. Compared to females, statistics have revealed that males are responsible for most road traffic accidents in the country. Figure 2 below shows the rate of fatalities categorized by age. The figures from 2008-2009 in Abu Dhabi indicate the severity in the loss of production in the country based on the fatalities affecting the most productive section of the population.

(Source: Hammoudi, Karani, & Littlewood, 2014).

Although there is a possibility that there are still accidents that go unreported, statistics indicate an improvement in the problem of road accidents in the country. The approach adopted in 2014, including the crackdown on road offenders, appears to be the basis for the improvement. The Ministry of Interior, in 2015, revealed a reduction in fatalities resulting from road accidents. The statistics indicated a decrease from 6.31 deaths per 100,000 individuals in 2014 to 5.99 deaths in 2015. The reduction has been credited for the creation of awareness on the danger of dangerous driving and the cost of road traffic accidents. Compared to 2014, it was revealed that deaths from the accidents went down by 5.2 percent. In 2014, the number of deaths was about 712, and by 2015, they were 675 deaths resulting from accidents. Though the decrease is minor, it is still a major improvement. In terms of injuries, there was a noted decrease from 7,108 injuries in 2014 to 6,863 in 2015, which is a 3.4 percent decrease countrywide (Ministry of Interior, 2015). The improvement is evident, but this does not mean that it should cease from advancing.

The improvement was also noted in terms of the number of accidents that occurred in the country between 2014 and 2015. The data from the Ministry of Interior revealed that there was a considerable reduction in the figure of road accidents to 4,788 in 2015 from the figures in 2014 which stood at 4,895. The results indicated a decline of 107 road accidents, accounting for 2.2 percent, nationally. The decrease in the numbers was credited to major efforts aimed at making the roads in the country safer. The results are evidence of better traffic safety outcomes largely because of the relevant officials taking their work seriously. However, more efforts are necessary to ensure a further decrease in the number of accidents, and the resulting fatalities and injuries (Ministry of Interior, 2015). More effective strategies need to be put in place to make it possible to reach the target that has been set for 2020, which is a goal of zero deaths per 100,000 individuals in the country.

The Causes of the Accidents

In the UAE, road accidents are the greatest factor behind fatalities. Road traffic accidents do not occur in isolation, which means that there are various factors that contribute to the accidents. Hence, it is critical to understand these factors if the goal of zero deaths is to be achieved because the efforts to address the problem cannot work if the main causes are not understood. There are various factors that can be categorized in different groups that are largely responsible for the accidents in the UAE roads. Figure 3 below indicates the main factors behind road accidents in the country.

(Source: Hammoudi, Karani & Littlewood, 2014).

The causes of road accidents in the country are just as it would be expected in any other country. However, there is an additional breakdown of the factors under the category indicated “others” which is made up of some factors that would be unique to the UAE. From the table, it is evident that this category has more than 50% of the overall number of accidents in the country.

Over Speeding and Reckless Driving

Speeding is one of the main factors that cause road accidents. Regardless of the concerted efforts to create awareness of the dangers connected to speeding on the roads in the country, the factor continues to create deaths and injuries through fatal accidents. The rules about speed are widespread in the UAE, but they are constantly being ignored (Shawky et al., 2017). Whenever a motorist drives a vehicle at a speed that he/she is not able to control, there are very high chances of causing a crash leading to death or serious injuries. Some of the factors that underlie over speeding include poor time management, which means that the person has to drive at a high speed to reach the destination faster, as a habit, or the need to impress others, especially by younger drivers. Understanding these factors is critical for successful efforts to curb accidents caused by over speeding. Dealing with these factors through deliberate efforts can lead to a decrease in the number of deaths and injuries resulting from over speeding.

The country has experienced a decline in the number of deaths resulting from road accidents. However, over speeding remains a serious problem causing the deaths of the most productive individuals of the society. Regardless of the decrease, it has been revealed that reckless driving is the primary factor behind the 3,078 accidents on the UAE roads. According to Sharjah Police, there were on average, 8-10 deaths every month, in 2015, resulting from fatal collisions and hitting of people on the road because of aggressive driving. The World Health Organization (WHO), in 2015, indicated that the country experienced 10.9 deaths per 100,000 due to road accidents (Ministry of Interior, 2015). The global status report indicated that over speeding and careless driving were the leading causes of the deaths. In addition, the results indicate the need for effective measures to curb the factors associated with over speeding and reckless driving in the UAE.


Tailgating is among the main causes of accidents on the roads in the UAE. A recent survey revealed that regardless of the campaigns against the dangerous practice, it has been on the increase. Concerted efforts to curb the practice have not borne fruits. Tailgating has remained a serious cause of road accidents in the country, and particularly in the major cities like Dubai. Various factors have been associated with the increase in the dangerous practice, including improvement of the infrastructure, commute time, and enjoyment of the drive. Most motorists hold the conviction that tailgating is a sure way of getting to their destinations faster. In reality, this practice on the road makes minimal impact in terms of time management, while having a huge impact on road safety. Tailgating places every road user in danger, not just the motorists. Failure to leave adequate distance between the vehicles has major effects on the driver, including hindering visibility and the ability of the driver to have control over the vehicle (Shawky et al., 2017). The practice also impacts negatively on the reflexes on the person driving in front. These factors are the causes of fatal collisions on the road.

Tailgating is among the leading causes of deaths due to traffic accidents. Failure to keep a safe distance between vehicles has been blamed for a huge percentage of the deaths and is listed as the third leading cause. It is estimated that 19 percent of the accidents that occurred on the roads in Dubai, in 2015, occurred because of tailgating. Out of the 1,472 road accidents that happened in the city, 286 had tailgating as the primary cause. On the other hand, about 21 deaths occurred as a result of the accidents that were caused by tailgating. There were in total 25 injuries resulting from the accidents. During the initial half of 2015, there was a record of 1,526 incidents on the roads, out of which 277 were a direct effect of the practice (Ministry of Interior, 2015). During this period, there were 17 deaths and 185 injuries. The reality shows the criticality of continued efforts to counter tailgating in the major cities in the country to save more lives.

Ignorance of Traffic Rules

Besides careless driving, ignoring the local traffic rules is another major cause of road accidents in the UAE. The rules are normally in place to caution drivers against dangers on the road and prevent the possibility of accidents. Road safety includes a number of local rules that are created based on the understanding of the environment. However, most of the accidents are a result of a lack of a traffic conscience. People who are aware or ignorant of the important things on the road are more likely to cause accidents (Shawky et al., 2017). In addition, when a driver is distracted when over speeding, it becomes difficult to understand the nuances of using the road. Most of the deaths that are caused by this factor are as a result of hurry or ignorance.

There are various rules that should be observed by motorists to avoid causing accidents. The rules including sticking to the right lane to avoid a possibility of colliding with another car, entering a road or a street without taking time to ensure that it is clear, or failure to obey the traffic lights. All these acts are responsible for a considerable percentage of the accidents that occur in the UAE, especially in the major cities such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai.



Use of telephone while driving

Driving under influence of alcohol or drugs

Tyre explosion

Underage driving

Strategies to Address the Problem


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