News headlines

Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Major power failure leaves Dubai sweating

Dubai - 19 June: Large parts of Dubai were left without power after a cable fire at the Jebel Ali power station yesterday.

The power failure lasted hours as a combination of heat and overloading of the grid led to the fire.

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) said the power cut began at about 11am.

Residents and shopowners in the Jumeirah and Al Quoz areas were left sweating as their air conditioning units ceased to work. Other areas affected included Al Barsha, Sheikh Zayed Road and some areas in Jebel Ali.

The Mall of the Emirates was without power for about half-an-hour and sales at the shops and restaurants were affected.

“We sent many fire engines to assist the Jebel Ali Civil Defence fire engines in putting out the fire,” a Dubai Civil Defence official said.

“It took three hours to bring the fire under control. Fortunately, there was no loss of human life.” A member of staff in the Dewa complaint departmentsaid their telephones kept ringing the whole day.

He said: “We got about 150 complaints. The problem started last [Saturday] night due to a system failure and electricity was disconnected from Jumeirah.

Emirates Today contacted Dubai Police Operations Room, which reported that traffic signals were not working in some areas.

“We sent police patrols to the areas to keep the traffic flowing. No major accidents took place,” an official said.

A source at the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority’s traffic control room said at 4pm that, except for a malfunction at two traffic lights in Umm Suquiem on Saturday night – when supply to the devices was cut for some 20 minutes – the system had been functioning well.

“There was a problem, but we brought in generators which restored the power supply,” he said.

Dubai 92 RJ Ben Whyte was about to begin his programme after the 2pm news when the lights on his bank of controls went out and he knew that transmision had been stopped.

He said: “The lights went out and everyone came rushing in. We knew straight away. I just carried on playing music until we came back on air, when I apologised for the previous 55 minutes.”


Shopping stops as power drops

Dubai - 19 June: The power cut in some districts of Dubai caused trouble for many residents yesterday.
A resident of Al Quoz said some electrical appliances in his home were damaged because of recurrent power failures. A resident of Al Barsha said the power generator at his home was damaged after the power cuts.

While two men got stuck in a lift at Cargo Village, shoppers at the Mall of the Emirates had to face a lot of inconvenience because of the power cut.

Officials at the export documentation department at Cargo Village had some anxious moments when two men got stuck in a lift during the power cut.The men were stuck in the lift for one-and-a-half hours as the maintenance department tried in vain to get them out without success.

In the end, it was the Civil Defence Department that was able to rescue them.

Kashif Ali, an assistant operations manager at a shipping company, had gone to the export documentation depa rtment for some work and he went to the first floor to get a document photocopied. On the way back he took the lift down but got stuck uwhen the power went out.

“There was no emergency light in the lift and it was so hot and stuffy inside that I nearly fainted. It was a nightmare,” said the 31-year-old Pakistani with a shudder.

Shoppers at the Mall of the Emirates were left stranded in the heat as they waited in queues for taxis and others were caught in a state of undress as they tried on clothes in the shops.

Nuala Ess and her sister Caroline were in the changing rooms trying on clothes when the lights suddenly went out and had to leave the shop and wait for the power to return before they could go back.

Nuala, 24, said: “We were trying on clothes at the time and suddenly we could not see anything – it was a bit of a shock. We had to change back into our own clothes and leave the shop.” The lights at the mall went out suddenly after 2pm with the staff looking on bewildered.

The blackout left all the outlets in the mall without electricity and only Carrefour carried on trading with the use of an electric generator.

Some shoppers could not use some of the toilets in the mall because of the darkness and others suffered in the heat waiting for taxis.

Carol Barren, from Scotland, was with her 10-monthold daughter and said she waited for more than an hour for a taxi.

“There was no network coverage so I went outside for the taxi but the queue was so long and it was hot so I had to wait till the power was restored.”


Dubai ski slope evacuated after outage at mall

Dubai -19 June:  A power failure at Mall of the Emirates on Sunday resulted in the temporary evacuation of Dubai's famed ski slope during an interruption that also affected communities in Al Barsha and Jebel Ali.

One of Dubai's busiest malls was plunged into darkness at around 2.15pm in a blackout that lasted around an hour.

"As soon as the power was disrupted the mall's back-up generators automatically came to life," said Vice-President Jim Badour, in a statement. "The Mall of the Emirates emergency response team?went into action and checked all public areas.

"The public in the mall remained calm throughout?the moment the power returned they resumed their shopping."

The financial loss incurred as a result of the power cut was not immediately known, but some shops indicated that even closing for an hour had a detrimental effect on sales.

"We were forced to close at around 2.05pm," said Andrea Rayess, manager of clothes store, Aizone.

"Like other shops, we were afraid of the possibility of looting, so we closed our doors and left the area, as it was in total darkness."

Approximately 90 cinema goers were evacuated from the CineStar theatres, some of whom demanded their money back. According to CineStar representatives, they were issued vouchers.

However, according to some mall employees, the power cut actually turned out to be a boon for business. Cafés reported an increase in business, with customers flocking to the sunlit centre of the mall.

"Although we couldn't serve coffee or hot food, we were completely full during the power cut because people wanted to sit and drink water and juice," said the supervisor of Columbus Coffee, Bien Ilano.

"People weren't worried; they just wanted to get back to their shopping."

Do not exceed 'allotted supply'

In the wake of several power cuts throughout Dubai, Dewa officials have urged the public to be wary of overextending their power supplies.

"It is very normal for small scale, contained power cuts to take place when demand is very high, such as in the summer months," said Dewa spokesperson, Abdullah Al Hajri.

Downplaying the incidents as 'isolated', Al Hajri indicated the situation was entirely normal during the summer months.

"Some isolated problems are to be expected during the summer," he told Gulf News, adding that the main cause is people exceeding their allotted power supplies, putting strain on the area substations.

Al Hajri said that subscribers are advised to inform Dewa about additional loads placed on the electricity supply. Dewa insists that its emergency services are up to the task, saying that all the problems encountered have been resolved promptly.


Workers upbeat on decision to lift ban

ABU DHABI — 19 June: The mood is upbeat among expatriate workers, particularly those employed as domestics, over the scrapping of the six-month ban on maids, servants and drivers.

They averred that the decision has given them a sort of new lease of life, in terms of their stay in this country, affording them an opportunity to map out their plans for the future.

According to Ministerial Order No 165 for 2006, issued by Lt-Gen. Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior, the lifting of the ban comes into immediate effect, and applies to various categories of workers such as housemaids, farmers, drivers, cooks and other workers in the category sponsored by individuals, mainly UAE nationals.

Abbas Gul, Pakistani driver said: “I am thrilled that the ban is not in force any more. Many of us who come here have spent a fortune to obtain a visa. For some reason or the other, certain workers fall out of favour with their employers, who all along did not hesitate to pack them back home, in the event the relations were strained. Now, if the new law is implemented without discrimination, we have a chance to fend for ourselves and find new employment in our field of expertise.”

Shanti, a Sri Lankan housemaid: “Change means progress, let the employee be from any category. If you are not happy working for a particular person, either because he abuses the maid, or there are no prospects for growth and increase in salaries, the employee should have the liberty of seeking greener pastures.”

“We are happy at this show of consideration by the authorities who should take proper measures to enforce the law and not allow some sponsors to have their say when the formalities require to be completed.”

“After all no employee would turn away from an employer who is kind and considerate. The issue crops up only in the event of employees being dissatisfied by the treatment meted out to them or the lack of recognition for the services they render. The ban has come at this time and we feel contented that it is better late than never.”

Syed Ahmed, Indian messenger: “I have only read the report on the lifting of the ban in newspapers. I have been working for a national in his house and have now got the job of a messenger with a private company. But I am still hesitant to effect the change in my visa as I am not fully sure if they will let me go without enforcing the ban. I am waiting to see how the situation unfolds before mustering enough courage to go ahead with the cancellation of my visa. I have also heard that influential sponsors who wield enough clout with the authorities can insist on the ban if they are not well disposed towards their employees. Of course they can have their way if the employees have a criminal record or have behaved in an objectionable manner. Otherwise, they should be allowed to choose their own destiny. In an economy such as the UAE, easy transfer of jobs should be the order in the job market, the situation dictated by the forces of supply and demand.”

Khaleej Times also spoke to a number of nationals and Arabs who expressed satisfaction with the decision, saying the move would benefit both sponsors and workers.

Khamis Saad, a UAE national, said: “The decision will relieve the suffering of many housemaids under the ban which was used by sponsors as a sword against these vulnerable low-income category. This category used to tolerate all pains and mistreatment of the sponsor in order to waive the ban which spoils their chances of returning to the UAE. His Highness's wise decree has actually  given this category a huge relief.”

Khalid Ismail, another UAE national: “The decision is a right step in the right direction and reflects the wise strategy of the country's leadership. It will help reduce the incidence of abscondence among housemaids which reaches about 5,000 every month. All these numbers used to run away to avoid the ban.”

Emad Abdul Hameed, an Egyptian employee: “The decision provides equal treatment for workers and housemaids who used to get slapped with a one-year ban upon departure. The one-year ban forced many to sneak out of the country illegally to avoid the stamp.”

Mustafa Ibrahim, an Egyptian engineer, said: “After this decision, housemaids will be more stable psychologically. This will make them less aggressive and, in turn, reduce the rate of crime which they used to commit as a result of the mistreatment they receive from their sponsors.”


Body of acid death man still at mortuary

Dubai - 19 June: The body of a man who died last month after swallowing acid in a bid to force the authorities to deport him, is still lying at a mortuary as his family does not have the money to repatriate it.

The family of Gatoo Jatasowami, a 28-year-old Indian, yesterday appealed for help to enable them to send the body to India.They require Dh3,500 for an air ticket and the hospital costs.

The victim’s brother, Naraish Jatasowami, who works as a salesman in a grocery shop in Al Nahda in Dubai, told Emirates Today: “Gatoo drank acid because he was hoping that the police would arrest him and deport him to India. He was desperate to go home but could not afford it.

“He thought that by drinking the acid he would have a way of going home. Unfortunately, it cost him his life – doctors could not save him and he died.We need help from people as we cannot afford to pay for the ticket.” An earlier article in Emirates Today had drawn the attention of a British tourist. He was on a short holiday in Dubai and volunteered to pay for the ticket and other expenses to repatriate the body. However, he went back to the UK after his holiday and since then Emirates Today has been unable to get in touch with him.

“I have completed all the formalities at the Dubai Court and the police station. Now we are just waiting for the money to send the body back.” Naraish said that Gatoo was staying in Dubai illegally for the past six years.

“He came on a visit visa, and was working as a cleaner on part time basis. I do not know why he drank the acid – I know that he did not want to kill himself. All what he wanted to do was to get arrested and go back to India.” Naraish said that the brothers were part of a poor family in Hyderabad.

“We are two brothers and three sisters.They live with my parents in India.”


Private firm to file accident reports

Dubai: 19 June: A private company will soon attend to minor accidents and write reports, which will help clear traffic quickly, Dubai's Police Chief said on Sunday.

Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, told Gulf News minor accidents will be dealt with by a private company, giving Dubai Police more time to handle major incidents.

However, if a motorist causes an accident under the influence of alcohol or drugs then the case will be referred to the police. Private companies will handle only those accidents in which no one is injured.

The project will start soon, he said.

"We want to concentrate on bigger cases and hence undertook this project with a private company. This system is followed in developed countries," he said.

Major General Sharafuddin Sharaf, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the First Security Group, told Gulf News on Sunday that the group has been authorised by Dubai Police to attend to minor accidents.

The group will attend to traffic accidents where no casualties are involved. Maj. Gen. Sharafuddin emphasised that if motorists are injured in the accident, then police will have to attend to them.

He said the service, the first of its kind in the region, is expected to be implemented within four months.

"The project will cost more than Dh30 million. Sophisticated technology will be used and patrols will cover the entire city to respond to accidents as early as possible. The patrols will work round-the-clock.

He said the group is holding meetings with police to discuss the mechanism of implementing the new system.

"We will be linked to insurance companies and the Dubai Police to report the accident directly," he said.

A fee will be charged for the accident report, he said.

"Either the motorist, who causes the accident, or his insurance company will pay. We are discussing the amount with the insurance companies, who will be notified of the accidents immediately.

"The system will help cut the amount being spent by the government on reporting accidents and it will also save time spent by police officials reporting minor accidents. Besides, it will also help clear the road quickly and prevent tailbacks."

The decision is part of Dubai Police's plan to privatise some services.

Grim figures

130 people killed in road accidents

About 130 people died in traffic accidents in Dubai in the first five months of the year. Police said at least one person was injured in accidents every three hours in the emirate.

The accidents resulted in the death of one person every 27 hours, the police said.

One person sustained serious injuries every 40 hours, while one person sustained moderate injuries every 11 hours.


Expert says some insurers are taking Dubai motorists for ride

U.A.E. - 19 June: An industry insider has said that motorists in the UAE are having a headache getting their cars insured.

Elias Abunuserah, manager and partner at insurance brokers Fidelity Insurance Services, said insurance firms often refuse to cover certain types of customers and car brands, and offer third-party insurance. They also often ask for higher rates than the ones stipulated and mandated by the Ministry of Economy.

Abunuserah said that while all these practices are in violation of the laws, they are widespread.

“Sometimes we have customers whom we cannot help,” said Abunuserah, who has been in the business for more than 10 years. He added that while such cases are not the rule, he has to approach a number of insurers to help some of his clients.

“They do not like old cars… even five years old,” he said, adding that some companies also refuse to insure some car brands as spare parts for them are expensive. “About 80 per cent of the companies do not take sports cars.” Some insurance companies also avoid young drivers whose licence in less than a year old, as well as people over the age of 65. Young men of certain nationalities are particularly difficult to insure, he said.

He also said that insurers try to stay clear of third-party covers, trying to persuade clients to go for full covers instead.

“Not more than five companies [from the 45 operators in the market] agree to offer third-party insurance,” said Abunuserah.

Another industry source, who wished to remain anonymous, said the reason companies avoid third-party covers is because for each such policy they lose on average 200 per cent on the premium. He also said that at present insurers have no way of checking drivers’ accident records and this is why so many companies choose to turn down potential customers who could be risky.

The Director of the Companies Department at the Ministry of Economy, Ahmed Al Housani, said the ministry had received such complaints.

In an e-mail reply, he said: “Sometimes the ministry receives complains from the public stating that some of the insurance companies are not applying the rates provided by the ministry in accordance with the unified motor policy…” “Regarding the fines for such violations, according to Article (25) of the Insurance Law No (9) of 1984, the minister may suspend a company from accepting new business for a period not exceeding six months.”


Police issue roundabout warning

Dubai - 19 June: Police are urging drivers to be careful and observe the speed limits as they approach roundabouts even if the road ahead is clear.

The warning came after two accidents last week in which two people died and two more were injured. Both accidents happened at roundabouts on Al Khail Road in the early hours of the morning, with drivers losing control as they began to drive through the roundabouts. Police suspect speeding was the main reason behind the accident.

The first accident, in which a UAE national man in his for ties and his wife died, happened on June 10 at 1am.

The victim’s BMW hit the curb of the roundabout and then a traffic sign before rolling over three times.

The couple were killed on the spot, while their domestic worker – who was in the car with them – suffered injuries.

A few days later, on Wednesday, a Canadian national lost control of his Porsche at another roundabout on Al Khail Road.

The accident happened at around 4am. The car burst into flames while the driver, who suffered serious injuries, managed to escape from the burning vehicle.


Screw scare in sealed water cup during match

Ras Al Khaimah - 19 June: The civic authorities on Sunday started an investigation after a national found a steel screw in a sealed cup of water.

The man and his friends were cheering during a World Cup match when one of his friends checked his water before drinking and saved himself from gulping down the steel piece.

A senior municipal official said that the head of the water desalination company along with the national who found the screw will be summoned to the municipality for further inquiries.

The official stressed that a hefty penalty could be imposed on the company as it was revealed carelessness regarding public safety on the part of the firm.

The official said the water cup was an evidence against the company as the national did not open the cup and it had the company seal.

Saleh Mohammad Ahmad, a national from Shaam of Ras Al Khaimah, filed a case against the desalination plant, which happens to be one of the emirate's most reputed companies.

He told the municipal officials he bought a carton of water cups for his friends who were visiting him to watch the World Cup matches in his majlis.


Water from taps 'is a rare sight'

Sharjah: 19 June: "You do not see water flowing through the taps anymore," said an Indian expatriate living in the area around the Rolla Square. "It is a rare sight."

Residents in many areas have learned over the past months that they cannot trust Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa) to provide them a regular supply of water.

"We always stock up on water," says Almaaz, a mother of two, showing two jerry cans under the sink in the bathroom. "The situation has got worse since the past month," she said.

"Sewa says it is the Municipality's fault and the Municipality says talk to the landlord," she said, after many futile attempts at finding out the reason why the taps are dry.

The problem is more acute in buildings rented out to construction workers, where about eight workers share one room.

Shaikh Naina, a worker said they store water in huge 220 litre barrels. "It lasts just one day," he said. In their building, water is released between 4 am and 8.30 am.

Across the Rolla Park, a restaurant worker, Abdul Razaq, said the only way it can keep its doors open to customers is buying water from Ajman.

Al Falah restaurant buys a tanker of 1,000 gallons every day. He said despite the extra cost, the restaurant cannot raise the price of tea and food items.

A tanker driver of Al Hader Fresh water said he delivers five tankers very day to Industrial Area. The water shortage has been going on for over two months, he said.

A watchman in Abu Shagara said he earlier always faced the tenants' wrath.

"After a Malayalam-language TV channel telecast a story on the water problems last month, the tenants have finally realised that I am not the villain," said Babu. He said the situation was really bad since the past four days.

There is no such shortage in the select areas of Sharjah as Al Majaz, Al Nahda or the Buhaira Corniche.

Consumption is high in Sharjah

Water consumption in Sharjah is high at 300 litres per person per day. Consumption of water in the UAE is the highest in the world

To save water the Municipality has made it compulsory that 'grey water', waste water from laundries and washbasins, in high-rise towers and labour camps should be reused for irrigation and landscaping.

Experts have warned that the UAE is one of the water deficient countries in the world and urgently needs to curtail consumption. The emergency number to call is 992.


Conman took more than Dh15m worth of antiques

Dubai: 19 June: A businessman who lured a compatriot into handing him 32 antiques worth $4.29 million (about Dh15.7 million) after telling him he would promote them to some GCC shaikhs has been jailed.

The Dubai Court of First Instance sentenced the 40-year-old Iranian to a year in jail. He will later be deported.

Dubai Public Prosecution charged the businessman with luring the 42-year-old victim and conning him into parting with the antiques plus more than $125,000 (about Dh459,000) which he said he would use to rent an antiques shop in a famous hotel in Dubai.

The two Iranians met in Al Baraha and the accused identified himself as the president of the Iranian Democratic Party.

Police said he took the victim to a plush office in Zaabeel and claimed it belonged to one of the shaikhs.

After a verbal agreement, the victim paid him the money to rent the shop where the antiques were supposed to be displayed. The accused did not sign a receipt.

The man handed over the antiques. But when the sum was not transferred to his account, he told the police.


Protesting labourers are threatened with deportation

Dubai: 19 June : Some 48 workers from a Dubai-based construction company face deportation if they do not return to work.

The threat comes in the wake of a two-day protest by workers at the Dubai Contracting Company (DCC) who are demanding a wage increase and full overtime payment.

The company has identified 48 workers as "troublemakers."

"We have submitted a request to Dubai police as directed by the Ministry of Labour to cancel the visas of 48 of our workers, if they do not return to work, as we consider them to be troublemakers," said Iyad Ban Khadra, a DCC spokesperson.

The protest was started by 750 workers in the company's labour accommodation in Sonapur on Saturday, and their number rose yesterday to include 3,500 of the company's workers in Jebel Ali and Al Qouz.

"We demand an increase in salaries as many of us have been working for this company for over 10 years and still our salaries have stayed the same, despite the rising cost of food," said one worker.

The workers, who earn Dh675 inclusive of a food allowance per month are demanding a Dh150 increase in their salaries and say they have not been receiving payment for overtime.

"We work for 12 hours as well as 4 to 5 hours overtime," they said.

Abduallah Bin Suloom, Head of the Investigation Unit and member of the Permanent Committee for Labour Affairs in Dubai, said it was found the workers had no right to protest.

"The company has the right to cancel the visas of those who refuse to work as they do not have the right to protest without any solid reason. But it will have to give the workers their legal rights before they go," he said.

Workers transported in pickups

Police patrols spotted nine pickup trucks transporting labourers during a single inspection campaign on Sunday.

First Lieutenant Saud Al Adel, Acting Director of the emirate's Police Patrols Section, said the violations were forwarded to the Traffic and Licensing Department and fines would be imposed along with other measures.

He added the pickup trucks were loaded with labourers despite strict regulations issued to companies to provide safe and suitable vehicles to transport their workers.

He said pickup trucks were intended to transport construction materials, not labourers and the trucks put the lives of the labourers in real danger.

Pickup trucks loaded with labourers have been involved in many road accidents in the emirate.

First Lieutenant Al Adel said the authorities had previously given companies a grace period to provide labourers with covered and safe vehicles for transportation, but police patrols were still spotting pickups with labourers in them.

He said the police had received strict instructions from the higher authorities to keep a close eye on companies violating the rule.

He added labourers, especially during the summer, were also exposed to the scorching heat while in the open trucks. He said the companies should look at this issue on humanitarian grounds.

He said daily inspection campaigns would be organised to root out the use of pickup trucks in transporting labourers.


Food from Fujairah restaurant lands a family in hospital

FUJAIRAH — 19 June:A woman and her four children were yesterday admitted to Khorfakkan hospital with symptoms of food poisoning after consuming a salmonella-contaminated meal of mutton bought by her husband from a restaurant.

They were given the first aid before being taken to the hospital in a very weak condition.

Omar Haroon, UAE citizen living in Al Biiyya neighbourhood, informed Dibba Police station that he had bought fast food meal of mutton from Al Jamal Restaurant.

After eating of the food along with his wife, whom he did not identify and his four children — three girls Nada, Hafoof , Sheikha and a boy Ahmed — they suffered from extreme weakness and some of the kids vomitted.  He himself did not show any symptoms of food poisoning.

Medical check up showed that the five were suffering from food poisoning, which was caused by the Salmonella. Doctors said that they had taken meat which was unfit for human consumption.

The restaurant in-charge was arrested and referred to Dibba Fujairah Public Prosecution for interrogation.

Police confiscated all the food and utensils in the restaurant pending legal action and the results of investigations.




Dubai - 19 June: Construction workers said they were forced to riot after missing their prayers for a week because they had no water to wash with. Hundreds of workers from Al Hamed Development and Construction Company in Jebel Ali admit they smashed three vehicles and burnt down a cabin after weeks of water and electricity cuts.

There was barely enough water to drink, meaning the Muslim men were unable to wash for their prayers, they said. “It is a basic need of any person to offer prayers. There is no way we could wash our hands and feet before the prayers since there is no water. We faced this for nearly a week and finally most of us decided that we had enough,” said one of the workers at the camp.

Muslims are supposed to offer prayers five times in a day and they must wash before each one. Workers said police eventually restored order. “The police understood our problem and assured us that water and electricity would be restored in two hours. Since then there have been no problems and we have enough water now,” said a worker.

Workers say the camp of more than 5,000 people relies on water brought in by tankers. “There have been instances when workers fought among themselves just for a bottle of water,” said another worker.

But a spokesman for the company denied there was not enough water, saying the company is footing the bill for the tankers while the water main is repaired. “The company paid extra to ensure that water tanks supplied water to the workers under any cost,” he said. “The riots were unnecessary. There was some delay in getting diesel for the generator and this was blown out of proportion by some workers,” he added.

Brigadier Jamal Al Marri of Dubai police called on workers not to take the law into their own hands and report problems to the authorities who would take action. “Muslims or not, workers should never have to ask for something as essential as water and companies should ensure water and electricity are always available,” he said.


More Air Arabia flights to India

SHARJAH — 19 June: Air Arabia has announced that it will increase its frequency between Sharjah and Mumbai from June 20 by an additional six flights per week, making the 13 flights per week its service to the Indian city.


Calls for ban on hands-free sets too while driving

ABU DHABI — 19 June: It appears that not only are handset mobile phones blamed for road accidents, but also hands-free ones are believed to be largely associated with road traffic accidents, a medical expert has warned.

“Using cellphones — whether hand-held or hands-free — was detected as a major cause for road accidents,” said Dr Rajeev Gupta, an Abu Dhabi-based consultant cardiologist.

Speaking to  Khaleej Times, the expert said using mobiles, including hands-free sets,  for a certain duration increases road accidents fourfold as they cause mental distraction. “A recent study conducted in Perth (Australia) concluded that 456 drivers in the age group above 17, who owned or used mobile phones, had been involved in road accidents,” said Dr Gupta. He said the study published in the British Medical Journal  (BMJ) showed that the use of mobile phones, including hands-free sets for up to 10 minutes while driving, was blamed for increasing traffic accidents fourfold.

“The increased risk was equal in both men and women,” he noted. The medical expert highlighted that there was a general misconception, linking only hand-held mobiles to road accidents. “Most researchers on the subject had initially linked road traffic accidents with hand-held mobile phones. It was thought (though without proof) that the use of hands-free mobiles are safer, and therefore, only the use of hand-held mobiles while driving was banned in many European countries.”

However, averred the expert, not only are hand-held sets risky while driving, hands-free sets too are equally risky. “It is worth mentioning that the use of hands-free mobiles while driving has also proved to cause mental distraction,” cautioned Dr Gupta.

He proposed that in the UAE — where traffic accidents are the major cause of deaths — the authorities concerned should ban the use of hands-free sets too in order to reduce road accidents.



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