Friday, May 15, 2009

Dubai taxis hail plan to limit speed

Dubai taxis hail plan to limit speed
Eugene Harnan for THE NATIONAL

Last Updated: May 15. 2009 2:56PM UAE / May 15. 2009 10:56AM GMT DUBAI // Taxis roaring along the city’s roads at high speeds may soon be a thing of the past as devices that prevent them from going faster than 100kph have been installed in 200 of the vehicles.

By the beginning of next month, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) will assess the results and consider placing the speed limiters in every taxi in Dubai.

The move follows a similar initiative in Abu Dhabi, where devices limit the capital’s silver taxis to 120kph.

“We need drivers to change their attitude to speed and reduce it,” said Ahmed Mohammed al Hammadi, director of resources and support at the RTA’s Dubai Taxi Corporation.

The initiative is expected to cut emissions and fuel consumption as well as speed.

“We need to save our environment and this machine can measure the carbon dioxide emissions output of the engine,” Mr al Hammadi said.

The Dubai Taxi Corporation has 3,500 cars in its fleet and if the trial goes well, they will all get the speed limiters.

Taxis belonging to other franchises will also be fitted with the new device, bringing the number of vehicles with it to more than 6,000.

Currently, there is a system that notifies head office if a driver is speeding and a penalty is automatically issued. But under the new system, they will be restricted to speeds below the national limit. Some parts of Dubai have speed limits of 120kph, but the engines will be fixed not to break the 100kph barrier, irrespective of the restrictions on the road.

“We have done the studies on where our fleet is going and at what time of the day, either at peak or off-peak times and found we don’t need to open the limit more than 100kph,” said Mr al Hammadi.

Only cars that leave the emirate regularly, for example airport taxis that travel to Al Ain or Abu Dhabi, will be permitted to go at a higher speed.

Taxi drivers backed the limiters yesterday. “It’s a good idea. There are no more worries for speed cameras if I am tempted to break the speed limit,” said Yaal Shah, from Pakistan.

“The only problem is when I drive a customer to Jebel Ali or the airport along Sheikh Zayed Road and they are late, they ask why I am only doing 100kph,” he added.

Mr Yaal said he had been given only two speeding fines in his 12 years as a taxi driver in Dubai.

“It’s not a problem in the city as you don’t go any faster than that, but when I’m out on Emirates Road, I can see it as a nuisance.” Govendam Sanana from India said he very rarely broke the limit so the new move did not affect him.

“When I am on my own in the car, it is OK to go a bit faster but if I have a family with children or even tourists, I do not want to frighten them,” he said. “There are enough crazy drivers on the road and I try to keep them calm when I drive by going at a safe speed. A normal speed is better for everybody’s health, but there are a lot of crazy drivers out there.”

Adil Sadak, from India, said the power of his car, a Toyota Camry 2L, was sometimes too tempting.

“I know when I am on my own on a big, open, empty road I would like to get to the other end of it quicker. We have a problem with speed cameras so if we do not know the road, we will not do it,” he said.

In Abu Dhabi, all seven firms operating the newer silver taxis have had to fit their cars with speed limiters that restrict cars from exceeding 120kph. Gold and white taxis, which are being slowly phased out, are exempt.

The limiter is a small device attached to the engine and controlled through a monitor inside the car. It works by limiting the flow of fuel to the engine when 116kph is reached, causing the car to level out at 120kph.

Drivers can override the system for 10 seconds by pressing a button near the car radio controls or on the gear shift, allowing them to accelerate when they need to.

Drivers could in theory hit the button continuously, but the companies can track the number of times it is pressed and could reprimand those who overuse it.

I sincerely thank the DUBAI RTA authorities for listening to this quality suggestion of mine to introduce speed limiters on vehicles. They were willing to listen and also kind enough to call and inform back about the test phase which is on currently. I hope this will be a success and will gradually implemented on to medium vehicles, mini vans, heavy vehicles, espcially buses carrying school children and workers and even government public transport buses.

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