More than a third of UAE drivers get distracted behind the wheel, according to a new survey – and that figure soars to almost half of younger 18 – 24-year old motorists.

With schools open again and a raft of new expats arriving into the country, it’s worth being cautious when driving. In the UAE there were more than 5,000 road traffic accidents last year, with 600 fatalities.

Despite it being illegal in the UAE, 30 percent of motorists admit to using their phones and reading texts while driving, according to a survey of more than 1,000 UAE drivers conducted by global insurer Zurich and

But 59 percent say the biggest distraction is the behavior of other drivers, particularly amongst those over 40 (71 percent) and Western drivers (78 percent).

And research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds at 100 km/ hour means that you are effectively driving blind for 55 meters.

Top distractions for UAE drivers

  1. Behavior of other drivers (59 percent)
  2. Passengers speaking to the driver (44 percent)
  3. Changing the radio (40 percent)
  4. Adjusting the air conditioning (34 percent)
  5. Poorly behaved children (34 percent)
  6. Complex road systems (33 percent)
  7. Road signs (32 percent)
  8. Using a mobile phone (30 percent)
  9. Reading maps/sat nav (25 percent)
  10. Reaching for objects in the car (25 percent)

It makes sense to get a comprehensive car insurance policy to ensure you and your passengers are fully covered in case of any road accident. You can also take advantage of a host of extras that often come with your insurance policy.

How to to avoid distractions

  • Put the cell phone away: This includes using hands-free or bluetooth – the handset is not the distraction, the conversation is. The Dubai Traffic Department has registered 26,533 cases of motorists using mobile phones while driving this year alone. In Sharjah, 8,154 motorists were fined for the offence in 2014 as compared with 7,251 in 2013.
  • Drive only when feeling fresh: If you’ve not had a good night’s sleep or you’re feeling unwell, it’s better to use public transport, get a lift or stay home, instead of falling asleep at the steering wheel.
  • Don’t make your car your powder room: The UAE Ministry of Interior has introduced a fine of AED 1,000 for women caught applying make-up or combing their hair while driving.
  • Take breaks: When on a long trip, stop frequently – at least every hour.
  • You’re in charge: Ask your passengers to respect your role as the driver.
  • Expect the worst: Exercise caution with other motorists, think ahead and do expect the worst from them.