Driving along Dubai's roads makes us ask if we are racists

Comment: Stereotypes can be tricky when you are stuck in traffic and tempted to yell at the motorist next to you.


I do not consider myself to be a racist, but living in the UAE has made me question my thinking.

In this part of the world, nationality matters. We all come from somewhere else, and we will all be leaving at the end of our time in the Emirates. Wanting to know a person’s nationality is not racist, it is simply part of the texture of life in the UAE.

The GCC is a region of nuances and stereotypes. Men and women from around the world carry with them the particular character traits of their homeland. Within their country, people have habits; outside their country, however, those habits become stereotypes, and — to the untrained — commenting on those stereotypes can sometimes be racist.

The UAE is not a melting pot. It is a nice place to live, work and raise a family. But in this country, Indians do not live with Canadians, Americans do not hang out with Brits, Filipinos do not mingle with Pakistanis. Within the respective ethnic communities in the UAE, people carry with them their nation’s stereotypes. This is the fabric that is wrapped around their DNA.

As I have argued previously, it is on the roads of the UAE where we are thrown together in a clash of civilisations. In a May 21 article, arabianbusiness.com reported that Indians topped the list of accidents and claims during Ramadan, according to findings released by Road Safety UAE, QIC Insured and Gargash Insurance Brokers. The companies said they based their information on 1,845 reported accidents and claims during Ramadan 2016.

Some readers, however, accused us of being racist.

Italian Luca Cima is a certified, international defence driving instructor at the Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Race Track as well as a car reviewer with Arabian Business. He has lived in the country for 14 years. For good or for bad, he says, after a few years in the UAE, you don’t need to ask where a particular driver comes from. Based on what they do on the road, he says, “you know immediately”.

“Driver behaviour in UAE traffic,” he says, “is often a transparent manifestation of prejudices.”

Speaking to Arabian Business, Thomas Edelmann, founder and managing director of Road Safety UAE, said the UAE is a multi-cultural and transient society. “It is important to identity common denominators transcending all cultures and backgrounds. We need those common denominators to … live a UAE-specific road safety culture.”

While I agree we should be able to get to a point where we all accept that arriving at our destination alive is the top priority, life on the road is not so black and white.

If I am in a taxi in Abu Dhabi, for instance, the driver and I will ask each other the same questions. The first is always: where do you come from? I assume a social scientist would say we both want to learn more about the person in our immediate environment, but I would argue we are both trying to learn if our initial impressions are correct.

For years I have debated with friends and colleagues that there are lines that separate societal observers from stereotypical believers and from racists.

On the roads of the UAE, there are truths about each of us, but the danger comes not with what we say about our fellow motorists, but what we assume.

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Posted by: Mariam

The statistics speak for themselves, most accidents in the UAE involve a South Asian and follow the same equation on how you choose a good doctor, it's all about training. How much training do South Asians have before they come to the UAE? What kind of training do they have before they come to the UAE? Although they complete drivers training in the UAE, why do they cause the most accidents? This is racist? No, its fact. Currently, the motorcycles are a menace on the roads, what is their predominant nationality? To solve these problems is to start revoking drivers licenses from those who repeatedly cause accidents, regardless of nationality, in a country with strong efforts made by the government to build wonderful transport options. All I know is when I see an Abu Dhabi license plate, that's when I begin to panic, regardless of nationality.

Posted by: CanadianInCanada

Its about the numbers Mariam.

The largest expat population in UAE is from South Asia, hence you can assume that they will be involved in more traffic accidents than any other community / nationality. It is very simple logic which the writer failed to understand.

Posted by: MT3

I'd agree he has more chances of being in an accident but not sure this holds up in terms of causing an accident. A genuinely careful driver could drive for 50 hours without causing an accident whereas a reckless driver in a high performance car racing up and down SZR at 50kpm over the speed limit probably has a much higher chance of causing an accident within minutes of hitting the road. What the article doesn't make clear is whether the claim stats are from the people making a claim i.e. those judged at fault,or just a general stat based on everyone who has been in an accident. I assume the former but it's not totally clear.

Posted by: Telcoguy

"Causing" an accident essentially means having a random fair on the driver, the probability of that happening depends on how long you are driving and how careful you are as a driver.
To isolate the driver factors you need to control for the length of time/number of kilometres you drive.
Your careful driver will have a lower chance than a careless one, but to measure that you need to isolate the contribution of the individual skills.
If you want to find out if nationality is a factor you should also control by the level of experience / age of the driver, age of the vehicle and probably a few other factors.
This is fairly basic statistic, and I would certainly fail any candidate who came with the level of analysis of this article.

Posted by: Poul

Funny how all these experts seem to miss the cue when it comes to identifying what the numbers behind the analysis really say about the driving habits of "certain nationalities"

Why don't you rework the numbers to see if the actual accidents / nationality amount to any thing interesting, when compared to the strength in numbers that they represent in the U.A.E....?

If that's too complicated, just tune in to see the news talk about accidents and fatalities caused from the period coinciding with the start of Ramadan...it says it all.

Analyze that why don't you...


Posted by: LEV

People probably think you're racist because your analysis is misleading and frankly, incorrect.

You need to report on the number of accidents/claims by nationality on a per capita basis, to conclude which nationality actually causes the most accidents.

Right now it just seems that you're trying to side-step the fact as to which nationality *really* causes the most accidents.

Posted by: Telcoguy

@LEV You are right.
It should be adjusted by nationality x kilometre, a taxi driver spending maybe 50 hours per week driving has a much higher chance of being involved in an accident that someone who drives 1-2 hours per day.

The oversight is not casual, this has been pointed every time one of this articles shows up.

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