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Last Updated: Friday, 7 October 2005, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Dubai speed cameras gain sponsor
By Julia Wheeler
BBC Gulf correspondent

The self-styled commercial capital of the Gulf, Dubai, is taking commercialism one step further this month by allowing the speed cameras on its notoriously dangerous highway to be sponsored.

An HP-sponsored speed camera in Dubai
Speed cameras bear the sponsoring company's logo

Many people are questioning the business rationale of the technology giant company Hewlett Packard in associating itself with a device generally loathed in the city.

However the company says the campaign is giving something back to the community and that its aim is to encourage a positive attitude towards driving.

The main Sheikh Zayed Road which links Dubai to the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, has one of the highest accident rates per capita in the world.

This is a country where shiny fast cars are huge status symbols and speed is apparently addictive.

Advertisement black spot

A mixture of nationalities each with their own driving style and some would say their own rules of the road weave in and out of the lanes trying to be the first to reach their destination.

Speed cameras every few of kilometres are believed to have cut the accident rate in recent years but many people still feel they are taking their lives in their hands every time they use the road.

After the danger, the second most noticeable aspect of the Sheikh Zayed Road is the amount of advertising crammed along its length; across the bridges or junctions, on huge hoardings which line the route and now for the first time around the speed cameras themselves.

Ugly orange boxes have been built to surround the cameras with messages like 'Drive safely' and "Reduce your speed" written in English and "Your children are waiting for you at home" in Arabic.

Talk of the city

Hewlett Packard, whose logo adorns the cameras, says it is being a good corporate citizen by trying to persuade people to drive more carefully, but many analysts believe the campaign only brings a negative image to the technology brand.

They say the move could work to the advantage of the market leader's competitors with drivers caught on camera subliminally associating the US $135 fine they receive with Hewlett Packard.

The company will not say how much it has paid for the privilege of sponsoring the speed cameras or to which Dubai government department - Dubai Police, the Municipality or the Department of Economic Development.

Whether or not the sponsorship is successful in terms of heightening awareness of the brand or in reducing speed and accidents, the company has succeeded in making itself the talk of the city.

One thing that is working to the speeding motorists' advantage though is that the cameras are far more visible than before - potential offenders are given plenty of time to brake before the camera captures their fleeting image.

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