Abu Dhabi pursues major traffic camera project

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Abu Dhabi is pushing ahead with a major project to plant its streets with video cameras that can monitor reckless motorists and those who use their mobile phones while driving as part of an ongoing drive to curb soaring accidents.

At least 600 such advanced tiny cameras that can shoot video films have been installed on top of pylons on most streets in the capital and more will be fixed in the coming weeks to ensure all the city’s roads will be under control.

T-shaped pylons have been erected through the tidy streets of the capital and most of them now carry those tiny video cameras which appear to be staring at vehicles travelling in both directions as if to warn them to take it easy.

Police sources said the cameras can record the traffic movement on the entire street and are so advanced that they can detect motorists who use mobile phones or do not fasten the seat belt while driving.

“The main purpose of these cameras is to monitor reckless drivers, especially those who maneuver recklessly among the car,” one source said.

“They are the latest in a series of measures taken by the traffic police to bring drivers to their senses and curb accidents….there have been reports that reckless driving has largely eased over the past few months.”

Abu Dhabi’s traffic police have not disclosed the cost of the project but security sources believe it involves Dh million on the grounds more than 1,000 such sophisticated devices would eventually installed inside the city of nearly one million people and on motorways linking it to other areas.

Many streets have already been planted with such video cameras, which are mounted like a tiny grape cluster on those pylons on every 200 metres. The first road to have such cameras was the 6.5-km seaside Corniche street, which is believed to have been planted with nearly 60 devices.

Most other roads inside the capital have also been dotted with such cameras while work is now under way to install these devices on the Muror Road that stretches nearly three km from the heart of the city towards its northern outskirts. The road has been a scene of deadly accidents over the past few years because of excessive speed and other traffic violations.

“I have been driving in Abu Dhabi for nearly 22 years and this is the first time that I notice a real change….there is better discipline now and I think these cameras are paying off,” said Toufeeq Gaddah, an Abu Dhabi resident.

Abu Dhabi has already been locked in a campaign to cut road mishaps, involving fixed and mobile speed cameras, which had been planted only on a limited number of streets before those the latest video cameras are introduced all over the road network. The campaign also includes heavier fines, increased police patrols, awareness drives and revision of speed limits on key roads.

Abu Dhabi has one of the highest traffic accident rates in the world because of persistent driving violations and the sharp rise in the number of cars. At the end of 2009, the city had nearly 468,000 vehicles including 398,000 privately owned cars, according to the emirate’s traffic police.

Road mishaps killed nearly 1,704 people in Abu Dhabi during 2005-2009 and more than 80 per cent of them were caused by human errors and violations.

“As for injuries, they were up by around 132 per cent in 2009 over 2005 while last year police recorded about 6,804 offences involving jumping the red light, nearly 38 per cent higher than those recorded in 2005,” said a recent study by the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development.

“But it was not only for drivers’ mistakes…..our records show that 53.5 per cent of the pedestrians do not abide by crossing rules and this is considered as a main reason for the increase in road accidents.”

In another study, a traffic police researcher said 177 people were killed and 200 injured in around 1,264 serious car crashes in the first half of this year. Traffic police also issued nearly 1.24 million offences during that period.

“The number of road deaths in Abu Dhabi is considered very high compared to the emirate’s population,” Atef Ghareeb said in his study.

Another study presented to a recent seminar estimated the total direct financial losses caused by traffic accidents in Abu Dhabi last year at Dh371 million.

They include losses resulting from crashed cars, damaged property, bloody money paid for victims and other costs.

“Total direct and indirect economic losses resulting from those accidents in the UAE were estimated at Dh16.6 billion in 2009….this accounts for nearly 18 per cent of the total losses resulting from road accidents in the Arab world.”

 

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