ROAD SAFETY: How does the GCC rate?

Rik Nuyttens runs the rule over the GCC's road safety.
Rik Nuyttens of 3M and the International Road Federation Europe.
Rik Nuyttens of 3M and the International Road Federation Europe.


Written by: Rik Nuyttens of 3M and the International Road Federation Europe.


We want a traffic sign to be visible, and to be as just as visible during the night as it is during the day. The sooner they can be read, the better, especially here in the Gulf where you have extreme and varying weather conditions. You have days with fog, and you have sandstorms. Of course there are limitations as to what a traffic sign can do. If the sandstorm is pretty thick you won’t see anything. If the light can’t get through to the sign, it will also have difficulties coming back. Although there are limitations as to what a human eye can see we try to bring technology onto the market so that any road user can read and receive the message on the road sign with maximum comfort.


Another challenge you have here in the Gulf is that all the traffic signs are in two languages, which makes it even more difficult for people to read the signs during the day and during the night. It is a challenge for the authorities to find enough space to fit in all the information twice.


We want to make the roads more visible by providing bright signs, signs that communicate with the drivers, so that they can move more easily on the road and find their way and avoid accidents, because when there’s accidents to a truck, you cannot use it for a few days and this is a big loss for the company. So we make things more easy for these fleet companies.

We have many accidents between small cars and bigger vehicles. We had a good example in Abu Dhabi where we convinced the minister of interior that trucks should be made more visible. The trucks were painted with what was supposed to be fluorescent paint, but it was actually non-reflective paint. So we demonstrated by applying our reflective paint to the trucks as contour marking, and we did a demonstration which took place at night. And they were convinced that the trucks were much more visible and could be seen from a distance, so that drivers could take action to avoid an accident. So when you drive on the road you see from a distance that there is a big truck in front you, so you take some precautions or you take action to avoid getting in an accident.


The other problem, and in Saudi Arabia it’s even worse than in other countries, is that because of the hot weather, bitumen or black tar comes sweating out of the asphalt and this makes everything wear out over time. So our road markings tend to disappear relatively fast, because of this black tar, bitumen, being printed everywhere, on top of the road markings. The white becomes grey and after a while the grey becomes black.


We need to harmonise the approach between Gulf countries, because trucks move from, let’s say Saudi Arabia to Abu Dhabi, and when they enter Abu Dhabi they have to obey the traffic laws. So they apply the reflective sheeting to the trucks at the border, but when they leave to go back to Saudi they remove it, because they don’t need it in Saudi Arabia - although it’s a safety item for them. So laws between all GCC countries have to be common.


I think that the roads that I’ve seen here are high class. I think the problem is that you have a very mixed road users, because there are Asians, Africans, Europeans and they all have their own driving style. And, I’ve seen people really who, an American would say, behaved like cowboys on the road.


Regarding road safety there are always the three rules to be followed: firstly, to make sure the driver gets the right education; secondly, that the driver’s licence is respected, so vehicle safety is respected together with safety belts, airbags, condition of the vehicle and technical inspections. Lastly, the conditions of the road. I think without these three aspects it’s very difficult to improve road safety.

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