Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, looks much like urban areas in the United States. And like the United States, traffic safety is a problem. In November, Jeff Shelton, Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) assistant research scientist, traveled to Abu Dhabi to present a certified training course on road safety audits to area transportation professionals. Also, like their counterparts in the United States, participants were eager to hear what Shelton had to say and discuss their own experiences.
“They were interested in the techniques I had to share,” says Shelton. “Participants asked good questions during the field exercise. Getting out on the streets where they could see problems like sign overload helped them understand the principles of the course.”
Shelton is certified by the Federal Highway Administration to conduct train-the-trainer courses for road safety audits. He’s presented numerous courses in the United States, but the Abu Dhabi trip was his first international training effort. The course was part of the 2010 Second International Road Federation Middle East Regional Congress and Certified Training. A member of the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport (DOT) asked Shelton to present the American course at the conference.
“The Middle East has a lot of traffic fatalities, and they wanted to see if this tool could help them save lives,” says Shelton. “They have a lot of high-performance cars on the street, meaning higher speeds and overconfident drivers.”
The road safety audit course teaches transportation professionals how to find low-cost solutions to fix roadway problems quickly. An independent audit team conducts a formal safety performance examination to see if the road or intersection can be improved — including changes to roadway geometry and operations. Changes could be as simple as removing obstructions near the roadway, improving drainage or moving signs to prevent signage overload.
“The workshop reinforced the growing interest among Abu Dhabi transportation agencies to improve safety on existing and planned roads,” explains Aizaz Ahmed, manager of Abu Dhabi’s Highways Management Policy and Strategic Planning. “The most interesting part of the workshop included a site visit to an existing road to practice safety audit procedures.”
The field exercise included taking photos of things the participants wanted to fix and then discussing the problems in the classroom. This exercise taught students to implement the techniques they were taught in the course.
In addition to broadening TTI‘s international scope and knowledge, the project helped Shelton form important relationships with transportation professionals in the United Arab Emirates. He’s currently discussing providing other courses for the Abu Dhabi DOT.