It is revealed by a comparative analysis of accidents among drivers on the roads that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have the most road accidents. In terms of the rates of road accident fatality, the states have considerably higher rates when compared to other regions. Globally, road traffic accidents have been shown to be 11th on the list of the most common causes of deaths. In fact, the problem related to traffic accidents is more prevalent in developing countries than in developed nations. The accidents have also been revealed to be the leading causes of fatalities in the developing nations. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), road accident reduction has progressed very slowly over the last decades. Given the reality that road transport is the primary means of transportation in the country, the accident menace is a serious one calling for immediate response (Hammoudi, 2014). Given that the current approaches to reducing the accidents have not worked, it is high time that more effective strategies are sought.
Road Traffic Accidents Among Drivers
Also, referred to as motor vehicle accidents, these are the accidents that result from collisions of a motor vehicle with another, road debris, an animal, person or other immobile obstructions like a pole or tree. The collisions result from the state of the driver or the obstruction leading to loss of lives, injuries or loss of properties. In most of the cases that such accidents occur, the driver is normally at fault, which means that a significant percentage of the accidents can be prevented. Globally, the accidents are serious issues because of the resulting economic loss for both individuals and the entire society. If the accidents could be prevented, it simply means that many lives can be spared and property saved from the damage. In the UAE, just like other developing nations, the accidents are claiming many lives (Hammoudi, 2014). Road traffic accidents are a daily occurrence in the country, considering those which are reported because there are many others, mostly minor accidents, which go unreported.
Road traffic accidents have remained a critical issue globally, leading to loss of lives and maiming many other people. The accidents lead to deaths, injuries, and property loss for those who are involved in the accidents. Phillips, Ulleberg and Vaa (2011) posited that the cost of road traffic accidents is huge, providing the rationale for strategies to reduce them. United Arab Emirates is one of the countries in the Middle East that have been experiencing speedy economic development based on their energy production capacity. With the economic development, there has also been an increase in the rate of motorization (vehicle per 1000 population). Expansion in the construction of roads in the country has increased the frequency at which the motorists are using this mode of transportation. The development has also become the basis for the many accidents that are reported and recorded in the country.
Prevalence of Road Traffic Accidents
The necessity for understanding the trends and statistics of road traffic accidents is founded on the importance of this information in designing ways of reducing the casualties. Towards this end, Grivna et al. (2012) performed an analysis of the current data to establish the prevailing trends in relation to the accidents as well as the potential approaches to dealing with this issue. The article revealed a change in the trends, but pointed to the criticality of designing more effective strategies because the present ones do not seem to be effective in achieving the objective of reducing the road traffic accidents in the UAE. However, the results of many studies reveal disparities in reporting, measures of outcome, and the risk factors behind the problem. It is plausible to note that the accidents that are included in most statistics are those which have been reported to the police and recorded. Hence, it is possible that the numbers could be higher based on number of accidents that go Unreported.
Internationally, each year, it is estimated that as many as 1.3 million people die as a result of road traffic accidents. Just like the global statistics of accidents and the resulting deaths, there has been a slight reduction of the number of accidents and deaths in the UAE over the last few years. However, there is still a lack of comprehensive assessment of the road traffic accidents in the UAE. The findings from a number of studies have played a critical role in shedding some light on the extent of the problem in the country. Statistics from the Ministry of Interior provides reliable sources of data on the recent trends in the road traffic accidents in the country. According to the data given between 2010 and 2011, the results indicate a decline in the number of deaths resulting from the accidents, from 826 to 720. Figure 1 below indicates the distribution of the total number of accidents in the country in 2011 (Hammoudi, Karani & Littlewood, 2014).
Nonetheless, experts suggest that the reduction in the rates of fatality is not a reflection of major changes in the road traffic accident rates and resulting injuries. It is possible that there were more accidents and resulting injuries even if the number of deaths decreased.
(Source: Hammoudi, Karani & Littlewood, 2014).
Statistics indicate that the rates of accidents tend to vary with age, with a majority of accidents being caused by drivers in the age bracket of 18 to 35 years. The group is responsible for over 50% of the total accidents and deaths resulting from the accidents in the UAE. Although the number of deaths has been on the decline, the statistics have revealed an increase in those accidents resulting in the death and injury of young drivers in the country. It is also noted that there has been an increase in the number of violations of traffic rules and general ignorance among the young drivers. The data from the Ministry of Interior indicates that, in comparison, although there are more vehicles and registered drivers in Dubai, there are more accidents in Abu Dhabi (Hammoudi, Karani & Littlewood, 2014). Hence, there is evidence indicating that there are more drivers responsible for road traffic accidents in Abu Dhabi than in Dubai. Hence, the information indicates the need for more concerted efforts to address the problem.
Road traffic accidents come with a serious economic cost to the country. The resulting injuries are estimated to cost 2 percent of the country’s Gross National Product (GNP) within the developed states, while it costs 1.5 percent of the GDP in the developing countries. The accidents are predicted to cost the global society approximately US$518 billion (Hammoudi, Karani & Littlewood, 2014). It is estimated that in the UAE a single death resulting from an accident cost approximately USD 2 million. Severe injuries are also associated with huge costs, with a single major one costing between USD 1 to 1.5 million. It costs less for a medium injury at approximately USD 300,000, and around USD 150,000 when the injury is minor. In terms of treatment, the overall treatment for injuries caused by accidents in the ICU in Tawam’s Central hospitals is approximated at USD 22 million per year (Hammoudi, Karani & Littlewood, 2014). The reality indicates a major strain on the economy of the country and the loss of production from the accidents, which means that there should be more effective means of addressing the problem to save the cost on society and individuals.
The loss of production as a result of the road accidents in the country is informed by the age bracket that is mostly affected by the problem. At the age of between 18 and 45, people are normally at the peak of their productive age. It is at this age where they are expected to contribute most towards the economic growth of the country. Hence, death at this age is a major blow to the economy of the country (Grivna et al., 2012). Another reality is that young males make up the most deaths and injuries resulting from the accidents. These individuals are the most likely to be involved in dangerous driving leading to most collisions and road crashes. Compared to females, statistics have revealed that males are responsible for most road traffic accidents in the country. Figure 2 below shows the rate of fatalities categorized by age. The figures from 2008-2009 in Abu Dhabi indicate the severity in the loss of production in the country based on the fatalities affecting the most productive section of the population.
(Source: Hammoudi, Karani, & Littlewood, 2014).
Although there is a possibility that there are still accidents that go unreported, statistics indicate an improvement in the problem of road accidents in the country. The approach adopted in 2014, including the crackdown on road offenders, appears to be the basis for the improvement. The Ministry of Interior, in 2015, revealed a reduction in fatalities resulting from road accidents. According to the figures, there was decrease in the recorded statistics from the year 2014 to 2015 from 6.31 deaths for every 100,000 to 5.99 respectively. The reduction has been credited for the creation of awareness on the danger of dangerous driving and the cost of road traffic accidents. Compared to 2014, it was revealed that deaths from the accidents went down by 5.2 percent. In this case, the decrease was from 712 deaths in 2014 to 675 deaths in 2015. Though the decrease is minor, it is still a major improvement. In terms of injuries, there was a noted decrease from 7,108 injuries in 2014 to 6,863 in 2015, which is a 3.4 percent decrease countrywide (Ministry of Interior, 2015). The improvement is evident, but this does not mean that it should cease from advancing.
The improvement was also noted in terms of the number of accidents that occurred in the country between 2014 and 2015. The data from the Ministry of Interior revealed that there was a considerable reduction in the figure of road accidents to 4,788 in 2015 from the figures in 2014 which stood at 4,895, recording an improvement of 2.2 % nationally. The decrease in the numbers was credited to major efforts aimed at making the roads in the country safer. The results are evidence of better traffic safety outcomes largely because of the relevant officials taking their work seriously. However, more efforts are necessary to ensure a further decrease in the number of accidents, and the resulting fatalities and injuries (Ministry of Interior, 2015). More effective strategies need to be put in place to make it possible to reach the target that has been set for 2020, which is a goal of zero deaths per 100,000 individuals in the country.
The Causes of the Accidents
In the UAE, road accidents are the greatest factor behind fatalities. Road traffic accidents do not occur in isolation, which means that there are various factors that contribute to the accidents. Hence, it is critical to understand these factors if the goal of zero deaths is to be achieved because the efforts to address the problem cannot work if the main causes are not understood. There are various factors that can be categorized in different groups that are largely responsible for the accidents in the UAE roads. Figure 3 below indicates the main factors behind road accidents in the country.
(Source: Hammoudi, Karani & Littlewood, 2014).
The causes of road accidents in the country are just as it would be expected in any other country. However, there is an additional breakdown of the factors under the category indicated “others” which is made up of some factors that would be unique to the UAE. From the table, it is evident that this category has more than 50% of the overall number of accidents in the country.
Over Speeding and Reckless Driving
Speeding is one of the main factors that cause road accidents. Regardless of the concerted efforts to create awareness of the dangers connected to speeding on the roads in the country, the factor continues to create deaths and injuries through fatal accidents. The rules about speed are widespread in the UAE, but they are constantly being ignored (Shawky et al., 2017). Whenever a motorist drives a vehicle at a speed that he/she is not able to control, there are very high chances of causing a crash leading to death or serious injuries. Some of the factors that underlie over speeding include poor time management, which means that the person has to drive at a high speed to reach the destination faster, as a habit, or the need to impress others, especially by younger drivers. Understanding these factors is critical for successful efforts to curb accidents caused by over speeding. Dealing with these factors through deliberate efforts can lead to a decrease in the number of deaths and injuries resulting from over speeding.
The country has experienced a decline in the number of deaths resulting from road accidents. However, over speeding remains a serious problem causing the deaths of the most productive individuals of the society. Regardless of the decrease, it has been revealed that reckless driving is the primary factor behind the 3,078 accidents on the UAE roads. According to Sharjah Police, there were on average, 8-10 deaths every month, in 2015, resulting from fatal collisions and hitting of people on the road because of aggressive driving. The World Health Organization (WHO), in 2015, indicated that the country experienced 10.9 deaths per 100,000 due to road accidents (Ministry of Interior, 2015). The global status report indicated that over speeding and careless driving were the leading causes of the deaths. In addition, the results indicate the need for effective measures to curb the factors associated with over speeding and reckless driving in the UAE.
Tailgating is among the main causes of accidents on the roads in the UAE. A recent survey revealed that regardless of the campaigns against the dangerous practice, it has been on the increase. Concerted efforts to curb the practice have not borne fruits. Tailgating has remained a serious cause of road accidents in the country, and particularly in the major cities like Dubai. Various factors have been associated with the increase in the dangerous practice, including improvement of the infrastructure, commute time, and enjoyment of the drive. Most motorists hold the conviction that tailgating is a sure way of getting to their destinations faster. In reality, this practice on the road makes minimal impact in terms of time management, while having a huge impact on road safety. Tailgating places every road user in danger, not just the motorists. Failure to leave adequate distance between the vehicles has major effects on the driver, including hindering visibility and the ability of the driver to have control over the vehicle (Shawky et al., 2017). The practice also impacts negatively on the reflexes on the person driving in front. These factors are the causes of fatal collisions on the road.
Tailgating is among the leading causes of deaths due to traffic accidents. Failure to keep a safe distance between vehicles has been blamed for a huge percentage of the deaths and is listed as the third leading cause. It is estimated that 19 percent of the accidents that occurred on the roads in Dubai, in 2015, occurred because of tailgating. Out of the 1,472 road accidents that happened in the city, 286 had tailgating as the primary cause. On the other hand, about 21 deaths occurred as a result of the accidents that were caused by tailgating. There were in total 25 injuries resulting from the accidents. During the initial half of 2015, there was a record of 1,526 incidents on the roads, out of which 277 were a direct effect of the practice (Ministry of Interior, 2015). During this period, there were 17 deaths and 185 injuries. The reality shows the criticality of continued efforts to counter tailgating in the major cities in the country to save more lives.
Besides careless driving, ignoring the local traffic rules is another major cause of road accidents in the UAE. The rules are normally in place to caution drivers against dangers on the road and prevent the possibility of accidents. Road safety includes a number of local rules that are created based on the understanding of the environment. However, most of the accidents are a result of a lack of a traffic conscience. People who are aware or ignorant of the important things on the road are more likely to cause accidents (Shawky et al., 2017). In addition, when a driver is distracted when over speeding, it becomes difficult to understand the nuances of using the road. Most of the deaths that are caused by this factor are as a result of hurry or ignorance.
There are various rules that should be observed by motorists to avoid causing accidents. The rules including sticking to the right lane to avoid a possibility of colliding with another car, entering a road or a street without taking time to ensure that it is clear, or failure to obey the traffic lights. All these acts are responsible for a considerable percentage of the accidents that occur in the UAE, especially in the major cities such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Use of mobile phones and other mobile devices during driving has been blamed for causing accidents in the UAE. The devices have become a very important part of the modern social life, which makes them common features in various walks of life. In every part of the country, there are people who are using cell phones for different purposes, including calling, texting, and using various social media applications. While the devices are a critical part of the modern life, they are a major source of problems when they are not used for the right purpose and in the right place. The problem of using mobile devices when driving emanates from the potential to cause a distraction (Mohammed, 2015). While most people get away with making calls when driving, texting has emerged as a major cause of distraction for the driver. It takes a few seconds of the driver’s eyes off the road to create a critical crash and cause death of self or other road users. Mainly by younger drivers, there is an increased tendency to drive while using the phone. Hence, they are the main contributors of the statistics on accidents on the UAE roads.
Official statistics have revealed that use of mobile phones while behind the wheel is in the least a contributing cause of over one in four accidents that occur in the UAE. The National Safety Council revealed in a research that 26% of the accidents were as a result of driving while using cell phones. On the other hand, texting using the phones is the leading cause of accidents that result from mobile phone use. Texting was revealed to be responsible for 19% of the total road accidents in the country in 2015 (Mohammed, 2015). The figures released by the police indicated that over 55,000 offenses involving cell phones while behind the wheel were reported in the same year. Most of those offenses involved use of the devices for texting or surfing the internet. According to official reports, the 19% of the accidents were blamed on distraction and carelessness primarily driving while using the mobile phones. Besides texting, surfing the web, particularly the social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, is a direct contributor to accidents in the country.
Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Drug
In the UAE, there is a strict policy against driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotic substances. The law exists despite the legal status of alcohol or narcotic drugs in the country. In fact, the law is anchored on the grounds of traffic safety. The substances are known to interfere with the judgmental capacity of the driver causing inadequate control and possibility of critical accidents (Mohammed, 2015). The risk to cause an accident increases with the level of consumption of alcohol or drugs because someone under the influence of such substance is liable to get out of control. In Dubai, driving under the influence is the leading cause of accidents even if there has been a marginal decline in the overall number of accidents in the city. The figure of those who have been booked for driving under the influence went down from 1,155 in 2009 to 1,092 in 2010 (Osman et al., 2015). However, the decrease does not suggest that the problem of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs has been resolved in the city and the country as a whole.
For many of the people who cause accidents in various parts of the country, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a major contributing factor. The problem is especially more evident among the young drivers, who are also blamed for causing many accidents in the country. The violators of the law end up causing accidents that can cause the death of the drivers and other road users. Tests done on the blood of those involved in accidents have increasingly revealed traces of alcohol or drug, clearly indicating the possibility that the substances are the reasons for the accidents (Hammoudi, 2014). A significant number of those arrested for violating the traffic law are revealed to have been involved in dangerous accidents, leading to serious injuries and loss of property. In the initial nine months of 2015, driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs was top three in the list of the main factors behind accidents on the roads in Dubai. The accidents led to the loss of seven individuals and injuries to 100 others (Osman et al., 2015). The majority of the accidents occur in the evening and at night because of the lack of control over the vehicle.
Proper tire care is critical for a safe ride on the road. However, this is not always the case as there are drivers who are not careful about the condition of their tires before they embark on their journey. The issues related with the conditions of the tires are among the leading causes of accidents in the UAE, especially if the tires burst when the vehicle is on motion. Official reports indicate that there has been an increase in the number of such accidents in the country. During the initial quarter of 2014, there were a total of 19 accidents that were as a result of blown tires. The same report indicates that in the same period in 2013, the number of accidents was 15, revealing an increase in the rate (Berwal & Siwach, 2016). It is discouraging that accidents continue to occur, especially given the reality that the accidents and the resulting deaths and injuries can be prevented. It is advisable to always check on the condition of the vehicle before being allowed to drive it.
The accidents that resulted from the tire’s condition have been linked to poor quality of new or used tires. Failure to have reliable information on proper tire management is responsible for the drivers’ lack of awareness on the importance of regularly checking the tires. An occasional inspection of tires will play a role in the safe delivery of the passengers, including families, private and public users of the roads. Necessary changes of the tires can be done to avoid continued use of poor quality tires, which has the potential to cause serious accidents on the road. Some of the things on the tire that should be checked include threads, checking on the pressure, alignment, and balancing (Berwal & Siwach, 2016). While some drivers could genuinely not know the problem with their tires, the reality is that the younger users might be simply ignorant of the traffic rules and regulations, including ensuring adequate proper quality of tires.
Underage drivers tend to be inexperienced explaining the reason they are the most at risk of causing accidents. Some of these drivers drive without a valid license because they have not reached the age that they are legally allowed to drive. They also lack the necessary training to allow them to use the road as drivers safely. According to a report by the Dubai Traffic Police Department, underage and young drivers (18-30 years old) are the most at risk of causing accidents in the country (Berwal & Siwach, 2016). In fact, younger drivers tend to be reckless and are the most susceptible to aggressive driving. The young drivers are also more likely to use their mobile phones while driving, increasing the chances of causing an accident. Over speeding, aggressive and reckless driving, use of mobile phones while driving, and sudden swerving are the risk factors of accidents, which are evident among underage and young drivers (Hughes et al., 2015). Essentially, younger drivers usually disregard both the conditions of the vehicle as well as the set rules related to traffic when on the roads.
According to a survey carried out in Abu Dhabi, it has been revealed that the number of underage drivers in the city is unacceptably high. In Al Ain, 341 cases of underage drivers were reported during the initial half of 2011. The reality reflects a lack of close monitoring of the children by their parents. It is worth noting that parents are increasingly allowing their underage children to drive, creating a risk to themselves and other users of the road. Children are on the road and cannot produce the license, indicating their lack of experience because of their age and regardless the fact that it is illegal (Osman et al., 2015). A famous case indicating the extent of the problem is that of the 16-year-old Emirati girl who caused an accident with her 12 and 13 years old sisters. The two died on the spot while the driver escaped with injuries. The case is an example of underage driving that end up tragically. The problem is leading to a high number of accidents, leading to death and serious injuries.
Strategies to Address the Problem
Most of the factors that are responsible for road accidents are preventable, which means that with effective strategies, road accidents can be reduced in the UAE roads. The authority can take important steps and the road users to reduce the rate of accidents in the country. The damage resulting from the accidents can also be reduced by implementing successful measures.
Having Stricter Rules and Enforcement
In the country, there are some rules and regulations pertaining to the use of the roads. There are traffic laws prohibiting many of the dangerous behaviors by the motorists, including those barring driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and those preventing the driving of underage drivers. There are also traffic rules in place that should be followed, and failure to obey them attracts legal ramifications. However, the rules, regulations, and laws are not always followed. While the problem reflects on the driver’s failure, it also reflects on the failure in reinforcement. Thus, it is critical for the law enforcement officials, including the traffic police and other relevant authorities, to ensure that traffic laws adhere to (Grivna et al., 2012). The authorities should be proactive in making sure that drivers are following all the rules, regulations and laws regulating the use of the roads in the UAE. The policies should be made tougher, and the enforcers should work more to ensure that drivers appreciate safe driving. The law enforcers should also be part of the campaign to educate the drivers on safety policies in the country.
Driving Laws Associated with Drunkenness
Driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotic drugs is among the leading causes of road accidents in the UAE. Some motorists will get behind the road while drunk or when high in other narcotic substances without considering their safety and that of other road users. Especially the young people, it is common to find them on the road after drinking (Osman et al., 2015). Laws and regulations are available to prevent the behavior, but since people are still dying because of careless driving, they should be made tougher. The country should consider having “zero tolerance” laws making it illegal for anyone to drive after taking even a little alcohol (Hammoudi, 2014). Regular sobriety checkpoints can be instituted to ensure the law discourages drunk driving. The checkpoints should initiate the mean for testing drivers under the influence of alcohol or other associated drugs. Ignition interlocks can also be used for measuring the level of alcohol on the breath of the driver.
Behavior Change Campaigns
The campaigns are critical at the policy level to ensure that the drivers are aware of the rules, regulations, and laws that are in place to make the roads safer in the UAE. The authorities and other interested parties should hold behavioral change campaigns where the relevant information is passed on to all the road users. The campaign should include all relevant areas and factors that cause accidents in the country. Some of the issues that can be addressed include the responsibilities of the driver to avoid over speeding, tailgating, and maintaining the condition of their cars, especially the tires (Hammoudi, 2014). The behavioral change campaigns should target both the seasoned drivers and the younger ones. They should also target those who are yet to get their licenses, especially given the reality that underage drivers cause some of the accidents. The campaigns should take place at the local and national level through various media.
The campaigns will be more effective if they are delivered through the media that reach a lot of people. The conventional media, including radio, TV, and newspaper, can still be used for the campaigns, but the social media will be more effective in sending the message to reduce road accidents. The government website should post the message so that it can be seen clearly whenever one visits the sites. The social media applications are the commonly used platforms by younger drivers, most of which offer speed and adopt dangerous driving behaviors causing the risk for accidents. Thus, these tools would be the most effective for designing and post the educative material targeting the drivers (Hammoudi, 2014). The government agencies involved with road safety should use the media to message the drivers about the danger of accidents on the UAE roads and the importance of following the laws, rules, and regulations.
Responsibility of the Drivers
Following the Rules. With the information from the behavior change campaigns and training from the driving schools, it is not difficult for the drivers to follow all the rules. Following the rules will reduce the accidents caused by tailgating, over speeding and being ignorant of the traffic rules and regulations. Besides the behavior change campaigns, training for drivers and testing should be made tougher and more professional to ensure that by the time one gets the license, he or she has adequate understanding of the traffic rules and ready to apply them on the road (Grivna et al., 2012). It is not difficult for the driver to respect other motorists on the road or to give enough distance between cars. Ignorance is claiming many lives and causing serious injuries from accidents. The laws relating to ignorance of the rules and penalties should be made stricter to discourage the dangerous behaviors on the road.
Keeping the Vehicle in Good Condition. Many of the accidents that occur on the UAE roads result from driving vehicles that are not in good condition, especially tires. In this case, the driver has the responsibility of replacing parts of the vehicle that are worn out as well as performing regular servicing. Worn out tires should be replaced as well as brakes and other parts. The practice will reduce the accidents resulting from tire explosions or dysfunctional parts. While this is the responsibility of the driver, law enforcers should be on the lookout and enforce strict measures to prevent the presence of vehicles on the road that are not in proper condition (Grivna et al., 2012). However, the greatest responsibility lies on the individual drivers because they better understand their vehicles. Regular checkups will also go a long way in preventing accidents.
Evidence from the past efforts indicates that more work should be done to be effective in preventing road accidents. Probably the reason is that only a part of the stakeholders are involved in addressing particular risk factors. Hence, various stakeholders can adopt several policies and programs through collaborative efforts. The comprehensive efforts can engage the policy makers, law enforcement officials, business people, the media, and other organizations and individuals with stakes in the transport sector (Grivna et al., 2012). Community mobilization can take advantage of such efforts to design and implement the policies and programs. The programs can be implemented at different levels from schools to the community, to ensure that everyone is involved. Through media campaigns, there are better chances of reaching as large audience as possible. Taking advantage of the diverse resources will work towards addressing the factors that cause accidents on the UAE roads, saving lives and property.
Road accidents are a serious problem on the UAE roads. Currently, many lives are being lost, people suffer injuries, and there is damage to properly that lead to hefty costs whenever accidents occur on the roads. The statistics from government agencies indicate that while the figure of deaths and injuries have been declining over the years, the problem remains a serious one. The number of those who are dying or suffering injuries has remained unacceptably high. While some accidents cannot be prevented, the highest percentage of them are those which can be prevented considering the factors that put drivers at risk of causing accidents, such as tailgating, over speeding, ignorance of rules, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs among others issues. Given the reality that some of the factors can be avoided, it is necessary for the government and individual drivers to play their part in reducing the number of accidents in the UAE roads.
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