Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Police call for compulsory fog lights

Police call for compulsory fog lights
Matt Kwong for THE NATIONAL

ABU DHABI // Fog lights capable of penetrating dense early-morning haze should be mandatory for all vehicles to reduce the high accident rate, a new police report suggests.

“All cars in the UAE must have fog lights because we have this exceptional weather here,” said Yousif al Katheeri, a warrant officer who drafted the report. “Front fog lights should be in all cars, even Japanese ones. It doesn’t take much to install them and it could save so many lives and reduce so many accidents.”
A 200-car pileup on the motorway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai on March 11 claimed four lives and left dozens of others injured.

Mr Katheeri said the scale of that accident – blamed on reckless driving and early-morning fog – convinced him that better headlights on cars could have saved lives that day.

“European cars are all already using fog lights,” he said. “Making them compulsory in the UAE could be very useful, so I’m ready to submit it [the report] to the traffic unit.”

Regular headlights dazzle other motorists in foggy conditions, but fog lights, which are mounted lower, increase visibility by projecting concentrated beams of light closer to the ground. Fog usually hovers between 30 and 45 centimetres above the surface.

Rear fog lights also increase the visibility of cars to traffic approaching from behind, and are considered to be better than four-way hazard lights.

Currently, all cars in the GCC are required to have a warning buzzer that sounds when the driver exceeds 120km/h, said Alan D’Souza, a business development manager for the Hertz rental car company in Dubai.

“But there is no mention of fog lights in the GCC specs – nothing at all yet,” said Mr D’Souza. “They might save lives when they’re used at the right time and at a safe distance. Still, there are a lot of factors to consider.”

Newer European cars all have the safety feature, he said, and both front and rear fog lights are mandatory in many parts of the continent.

“But it is a cost element for Japanese carmakers,” he added.

Drivers also have to know when to use the special headlights, he said. “Some people have fog lights but don’t even know where the switch is, or some don’t even know they have them.”

One motorist, Clive Mantell, from London, said putting fog lights on cars already in the UAE would be a “pain in the neck”, but also a welcome move.

“I think it’s to be applauded,” he said.

“It’s a bit surprising it’s taken this long [for a report] because the weather isn’t a new thing. I hope drivers get assistance from the manufacturers because this is an excellent idea.”

He added: “I used to live in Germany during the 1970s, when we had to have fog lights. You just weren’t licensed to drive unless you had those lights, so we just installed them.”

He called the thick fog “one of the most extraordinary aspects” of his experiences living in the UAE. “I’ve seen more foggy days than in my last four years living in London and The Hague, [which are] reputedly foggy cities.”

However, the main cause of most accidents seems to be reckless driving, Mr Mantell said. “Let’s be clear. The rear fog light isn’t going to stop all accidents. When the fog comes down, a good proportion of people just put on their four-way lights, continue speeding along and keep their fingers crossed. That needs to change first.”

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