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Road deaths linked to traffic fines discount

Wafa Issa

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DUBAI // Deaths on the roads rose by 28 per cent during a four-month discount period for traffic fines.

The deaths are too high a price to pay and the discount experiment will not be repeated, Dubai's traffic police chief said yesterday.

"When we reduced traffic fines, many people saw it as an opportunity to commit more traffic offences, and they came to think that we did not care," Maj Gen Mohammed Saif Al Zafein said.

Officials introduced a 30 per cent discount on traffic fines in September last year. In December the discount was increased to 40 per cent and the period extended to January 10. The scheme was aimed at encouraging offenders to pay accumulated fines, and nearly 800,000 fines worth Dh344.7 million were paid compared with just under 700,000 worth Dh335.5m in the same period a year ago.

In the last four months of the year, however, 46 people were killed on Dubai's roads, compared with 36 a year ago.

"We observed a clear connection between the discount and road fatalities. Death on roads continued to increase during the discount period, and for us that is a clear sign of a direct link between the two," Maj Gen Al Zafein said.

"Our main priority is reducing road fatalities and saving lives, not collecting fines. And if collecting fines would mean that more people are killed we will be held accountable."

He dismissed any suggestion that police might extend or reintroduce the discount scheme.

Maj Gen Al Zaffein said one of his department's main goals for 2012 would be reducing the number of accidents in which pedestrians are run over, which comprised about 30 per cent of the total number of road fatalities in 2011.

"Reducing the number of people killed while crossing the roads is our main challenge this year," he said.

Last year 41 people were killed in such accidents, compared to 43 in 2010.

Maj Gen Al Zaffin blamed lack of awareness and negligence by pedestrians for most of the deaths.

Anyone crossing a road that has a speed limit of more than 80kph is committing a traffic offence and should be fined, he said.

"Highways are not there to be crossed, and they should also not have any underpasses or overpasses," he said.

However, he did call for more pedestrian crossings on roads with lower speed limits.

"There are not many pedestrian crossings on inner roads, such as those in Al Wasl and Jumeirah, and therefore people will cross those roads from anywhere," he said.

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