One of the world’s longest ongoing problems is traffic congestion on the road. Every year, billions of people spend an unnecessarily long amount of time on the road. Apart from pent-up annoyance, this also leads to many road accidents.
Despite its glamorous reputation for providing great travel, the United Arab Emirates still can’t escape the clutches of traffic jams. Whether you’re a local or a traveler, you can expect to spend ample time facing the back end of another car on the country’s incredible road network.
This is especially true of the two prominent destinations of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Even with a cheat code of a UAE driving guide, you wouldn’t be able to escape the number of cars on the road at peak hours.
To help you navigate the streets better, here’s a guide on UAE traffic statistics focusing on road accidents and more.
Let’s start with the statistics on traffic congestion and what you can expect while driving around the country. For the sake of time, the focus will be on Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the two most popular travel destinations in the UAE.
Up first is the country’s most populated city, Dubai. This incredible city also happens to have the highest traffic congestion stats in the nation. After all, Dubai has the highest car-to-people ratio in any of the Middle Eastern cities. For every 1,000 people, 540 cars are roaming the Dubai roads according to the Road and Transport Authority (RTA).
According to TomTom’s annual report, traffic in Dubai had an average of 19% congestion in 2020. This means that for every hour spent on the road, you’ll be stuck in traffic for 11 minutes. While the figure stays relatively similar for morning rush hour, it jumps to 39% in the evening between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The period with the lowest congestion levels was April, with just a 6% congestion rating. On the other hand, January was the month with the most traffic jams in Dubai at 25% congestion. One of the main reasons for this figure is that kids are usually returning to school from their winter breaks.
This means that when you intend to travel in and around the city, be sure to avoid the morning and evening. You’ll save yourself plenty of time and have a reduced risk of getting into Dubai accidents on the road.
Next up is the United Arab Emirates’ capital of Abu Dhabi which is the country’s second-most congested city. The capital sure loves its cars, which is evident through its Ferrari-inspired theme park. But is this love of vehicles a major problem for anyone who uses the roads?
While not as severe as Dubai, Abu Dhabi does have its fair share of congestion. On average, you will face congestion levels of 10%, which doesn’t change with the morning rush but increases to 18% in the evening. To put that into perspective, you’ll spend an average of six minutes an hour in slow-moving traffic.
Like Dubai, motorists face the least congestion in the same period of April (4%) and face the most traffic jams in January (12%). This means that the optimal time to drive in the streets is during the afternoon. Data suggests that you’ll be able to drive the highways freely and have a reduced chance of being involved in an Abu Dhabi car accident.
One of the reasons that Abu Dhabi is nearly two times less congested is because of the city’s great road networks. According to the “Statistics Center – Abu Dhabi,” road capacity in the capital nearly doubled in 10 years between 2009 and 2019.
When it comes to safe driving, the UAE is neither the safest nor the most dangerous country for drivers. Road traffic accidents have been one of the main causes of death in the UAE for many years. Non-fatal injuries are also an issue in the country, with a lot of these occurring on the road.
As stated, unfortunate incidents between vehicles are one of the leading causes of death in the Middle Eastern country. The people who feel the brunt most are young children.
According to the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, around 63% of injury-related deaths amongst kids were a result of road crashes. The research center also found that this number is astronomically high when compared globally.
In recent years, however, there has been a reduction in traffic fatalities and injuries. In 2014, just over 700 people passed on due to vehicle-related accidents. Since then, there’s been a downwards trend that saw just over 300 people suffer fatal injuries in 2020.
This is thanks to the valiant efforts from the UAE road and traffic bodies. The department has done a lot to reduce the number of serious accidents on the roads (more on this later).
Since the UAE has such an impressive road and traffic infrastructure, what is the reason behind many of the fatalities and injuries stemming from an accident on the road?
There isn’t just one thing to point at as there are several factors at play here. Driver negligence, a disregard for the law, and more are among the reasons that research has found as the catalysts behind many fatalities and casualties.
Per a 2019 survey by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Dubai Statistics Center, the leading reason(s) behind a vehicle collision was driving drunk and suddenly changing lanes (20% each). These two were followed closely by drivers that failed to keep the appropriate distance between themselves and the next car (19%).
A lack of judgment (10%) in road markings, traffic signs, and more was fourth. Behind this were people either not following their lanes or entering the streets without doing all the appropriate checks (6% each). Running traffic signals (5%) was followed by a lack of attention (4%) by using smartphones, zoning out, and the like.
Lastly, people that reversed recklessly (3%) and those who were speeding over the speed limits in UAE (2%) closed out the list.
The WHO found a slight difference between crashes that happen during the day and those that occur in the evening. 45% of all accidents happened in broad daylight and 55% during the night. Another finding was that a shocking 98% of passengers involved in vehicle crashes had chosen not to wear seat belts.
The same survey also had significant findings regarding motor vehicle accidents that led to lost lives. The data classified the leading cause of fatal car crashes in Dubai and other cities as “other,” with 38 such incidents. These reasons include not giving way to pedestrians, reckless driving by running red lights, and driving under the influence, among others.
Behind that, with 30 incidents, was driving negligently and leading to an accident. This occurred due to people eating or drinking while driving, using their mobile phones, or slowing down to look at another accident.
Motorists that didn’t pay attention to their lanes were third (18) and drivers that entered a UAE road without checking if it’s clear were fourth (13). There were also some that didn’t show any courtesy for road safety by driving in the opposite direction (12). Rounding out the data findings were motorists driving without a license (11).
While the details above make for a rather grim outlook, there’s light at the end of the tunnel that gives hope. The number of traffic and road accidents has been decreasing annually.
So, how have government entities decreased the number of car accidents, and thus deaths? How have they also managed to improve traffic congestion?
Easy, they did it through the amendment of federal traffic law resulting in hefty fines for anyone who breaks them. There have also been a number of road safety programs rolled out to help everyone reduce the risk of being involved in an accident.
The above changes all occurred as part of the RTA Dubai and Abu Dhabi strategic safety plans. The plans had various goals, with one of the objectives providing smooth transport for all. This goes for private and public transport users.
The amended federal laws came into effect in July 2017 with plenty of changes that were meant to reduce legal violations on the road. They were as follows:
All passengers in a vehicle are required to wear seatbelts regardless of their seating position. Failing to do this will result in an AED 400 fine for the driver and they’ll receive four black points.
Further, all children aged four and younger are required to be seated in child seats in line with the children’s safety regulations in UAE. The front seat passenger also has to be at least 145cm tall and older than 10 years.
Anyone caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be arrested and have their driver’s license suspended for a year by the traffic department. Further, the court will decide the fine and/or jail term they’ll receive.
To deal with speeding violations, anyone caught driving 80 km/h over the speed limit will incur 23 black points and receive fines of AED 3,000. Your car would also be impounded for 60 days.
Reckless driving is any action that may put other people’s lives at risk of road injuries or deaths by accident. From crossing red lights and sudden swerving to driving without a number plate and blocking traffic. For this, you get 23 black points, an AED 2,000 fine, and your car is impounded for 60 days.
Ignoring Traffic Signals
Drivers that ignore traffic lights and other signals receive fines of AED 1,000 and receive 12 black points along with a month-long vehicle impounding.
If you’re caught using your phone while driving or are distracted by something else, you face fines of AED 400 and four black points.
In 2012, Dubai Police had introduced a white points system to further improve road safety. Instead of just punishing bad drivers who caused traffic accidents, they chose to reward the good ones. In 2017, this system was rolled out across the United Arab Emirates.
In this system, you receive two points every month you go without committing any traffic violations, don’t face traffic prosecution cases for a year, or receive any parking and Salik fines.
At the end of the calendar year, you can redeem a reward at a traffic department in Dubai or the relevant city.
These include canceling the impoundment of a car for 30 days or not canceling the payment of any extra impoundment for 30 days max. Rewards include canceling a car’s impoundment for 30 days. You can also cancel the fine for another impoundment period of the vehicle for a maximum of 30 days. Alternatively, you can choose to reduce your black points by a maximum of 12 points.
When it came to reducing traffic congestion, the main solution by the government was engineering and improving the road infrastructure. This included improving the road networks, as evidenced by the changes in the capital.
They also repeatedly encourage people to take public transport when possible. There are buses, trams, metros, and more.
On your side, you can make sure to abide by the appropriate speed as that can reduce the traffic and thus, traffic accidents.
The United Arab Emirates may have one of the best travel infrastructures but it’s not exempt from traffic congestion. The sheer number of cars on the road, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are the catalyst for this.
There are also several safety concerns that drivers will have to account for while driving. Luckily, there has been a positive trend here with the number of accidents decreasing year after year.
If you’re traveling through the UAE, be sure to follow their rules to the T to avoid paying fines and having your driving privileges taken away. Also, travel at the optimal times during the day and you’re likely to enjoy drives with little traffic or accidents.