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Mega 69-car pile-up brings traffic to halt in Abu Dhabi

Around 23 people were reportedly injured in four accidents involving a total of 96 vehicles
Emirati police photo showing vehicles damaged in an early morning series of collisions in heavy fog in Abu Dhabi on 11 March, 2008 (AFP)

Abu Dhabi traffic ground to a halt on Saturday after foggy conditions helped cause a 69-car pile-up and three other large traffic incidents.

It is believed that 23 people were injured in the crashes.

The first two incidents, including the 69-car pile-up, happened on the main road going from Abu Dhabi to the al-Ain airport, close to the emirate’s camel-racing track.

Brigadier Khalifa Mohammad Mubarak Al Khaili, deputy head of the Abu Dhabi Police Traffic and Patrols Directorate, said that the police were dispatched quickly and were working to clear the debris as soon as possible.

Police have advised drivers to take extra care during the difficult weather conditions and to not use their hazard lights when there was likely to be oncoming traffic.

Investigations are being carried out to find out more about the incidents, Gulf News reported.

Road safety is a huge issue in large parts of the Middle East, where speeding and dangerous driving can be common.

A high-profile UAE road safety campaign and government drive to root out incidents have helped to reduce fatalities in recent years, although much remains to be done.

For the first three months of 2015, official statistics showed an 8.1 percent drop from 1,340 to 1,232 in the number of accidents. Deaths across the UAE were also reduced by 39, from 186 to 147, roughly around 12 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the World Health Organisation. This is relatively low for the MENA region, with Libya topping the list with around 40 deaths per 100,000 and Iraq coming second with 31 deaths per 100,000. The figures are significantly worse the EU average, which is closer to three deaths.

Despite the government pumping millions of dollars into safe driving initiatives and policing methods, the public response to the measures has been mixed.

In mid-2014, a safety scheme that gave out free child car seats to families failed to arouse interest from parents, many of whom refused the free scheme. It is believed that only one in five parents in the UAE always uses a safety seat for children under two, and road-safety groups are calling for greater regulation.