Last year, pedestrian deaths in the UAE declined 9 per cent to 1,209 from 1,328 in 2011, said the Ministry of Interior.
Abdullilah Zineddin, a road-safety specialist in Abu Dhabi, said pedestrian fatalities in the UAE and in the GCC accounted for almost one third of roadway-related deaths.
“This number is significantly higher than modernised countries around the world so it is vital that UAE authorities focus their attention on this problem,” he said.
In the capital, the number of fatalities from traffic accidents fell to 16 last year from 34 in 2012, said Abu Dhabi Police.
Pedestrian fatalities in the emirate fell 31 per cent from 2012, and there was a 3 per cent decline in traffic accidents per 100,000 people.
Fatalities resulting from road users jumping red lights dropped to six last year from 13 in 2012, and the number of fatalities resulting from speeding fell to 14 from 25.
Serious injuries also declined, from 65 cases to 55.
Ibrahim Al Hmoudi, a transport planning department manager at Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, said pedestrian deaths accounted for 29 per cent of all road fatalities in Abu Dhabi. He did not specify the time period.
Of that figure, 22 per cent occurred in the centre of the capital.
Driver behaviour and road design (a cause of 20 per cent of accidents) were major contributing factors to road accidents, Mr Al Hmoudi said.
Mr Zineddin said drivers and pedestrians needed to be vigilant about one another.
“However, it is vital that drivers fully comprehend the fact that they have more responsibility under the law when operating a motor vehicle on city streets,” he said. “Pedestrians should also understand that they have more at stake.”
In Dubai, fatal traffic accidents involving pedestrians were the second biggest cause of deaths in the emirate, with 40 fatalities and 361 people injured over an 11-month period, according to Dubai Police statistics released in January.
In Sharjah, 37 children were killed last year after being run over by cars. In most of the cases, they were accidentally run over by their parents or relatives, police said.
There were 223 fatal road accidents in the emirate last year.
“Almost no one survives if they are hit at a speed of 80kph,” Mr Zineddin said. “Drivers need to slow down and follow speed-limit laws, especially when they are driving around neighbourhoods that are full of children playing outside.”
Several measures to improve the safety of road users and pedestrians have been implemented by Abu Dhabi Municipality.
Electronic signs near pedestrian tunnels were installed on Hamdan Street last month. They are intended to draw the attention of pedestrians, especially visitors, to safe crossing points in underpasses.
“The electronic signs or any visible methods that would encourage pedestrians to use safe paths to cross are highly encouraged,” Mr Zineddin said.
The Urban Planning Council’s Abu Dhabi Urban Street Design Manual prioritises pedestrians and cyclists, who are considered the most vulnerable users of urban streets.
The council aims to reduce vehicle speed by narrowing the width of road lanes, reducing the size of right-turn lanes and introducing traffic-calming features such as raised junctions, raised pedestrian crossings and speed tables.
“What is needed is to impose tougher punishment on reckless drivers,” said Iftekhar Ahmed, a Bangladeshi-born Canadian electrical engineer, who launched an awareness project on pedestrian safety last year.
“For jaywalkers, it is essential to find out the root cause of their errant behaviour. It may be due to the unavailability of pedestrian crossings, underpasses or footbridges in the area.”