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Stricter penalties for Dubai motorists using phones

A driver found dead at the wheel clutching his phone with a social media site still open and a Whatsapp-user who ran over a pedestrian are among the unforgivable fatalities caused by motorists using handsets while driving. Dubai Police chiefs revealed details of the deaths, which occurred last year, as they called for harsher punishments for offenders on the emirate’s roads. Colonel Saif Muhair Al Mazroui, Director of Traffic Department at Dubai Police, said the force has asked for a change in the law to allow officers to seize for a month any vehicle whose owner is caught using a phone behind the wheel. He has also asked the Federal Traffic Council to raise fines from Dhs200 to Dhs1, 000 and the number of black points from 4 to 12. The council, comprised of police chiefs from all seven emirates, has already backed the move and asked the Ministry of Interior to make the proposals into law. General Mohammad Saif Al Zafeen, director of UAE Federal Traffic Council said: “We finished the new punishment law after all members agreed to make the fine Dhs1, 000 with 12 black points and impound the vehicle for a month. It is a danger offence which we should crack down to reduce deaths. Figures from Dubai Police show that 49,643 offences were recorded for mobile phone use while driving last year, up from 45,499 in 2014. Under the new law, all of those drivers would have been taken off the road for 30 days. Those shocking statistics show that sterner action is needed and Al Mazroui said that, despite repeated warnings, many motorists are still seen using mobile phones while driving, typically to check their social media accounts or send a Whatsapp. He said: “This is a serious offence and can cause many casualties on the roads. Motorists should know that applications like Whatsapp are your enemy if you use them while driving.” Al Mazroui said global studies have shown that using a phone while driving is more dangerous than drink-driving. The Ministry of Interior has previously ordered all UAE traffic police departments to fine mobile phone users, even if they are stationary at a traffic signal. Mazroui also said too many pedestrians are involved in accidents because they are glued to their phones. He said: “We had one man who was walking on the pavement when his phone fell out of his hands onto the road. He went to collect the phone without noticing a car coming, which hit him, killing him. Please people, pay more attention.” Al Mazroui also called for help from the public in reporting mobile phone- using motorists. Dubai Police received 1,216 reports from drivers spotting fellow motorists on their phones last year and Al Mazroui said: “We are looking for public help in raising the awareness to control this problem.” Al Mazroui spoke on the same day that HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, issued a decree yesterday stating that drivers who cause accidents in which someone is taken to hospital by ambulance must pay a fee. A statement from Dubai Media Office said: “Dubai Police and Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services charge a fee of AED 6,770 for emergency and evacuation services provided to each casualty in a traffic accident, which will be collected from the insurance provider of the party that caused the accident.” The new move will come into force from February 28. ali.shouk@7days.ae

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