By Michael Jabri-Pickett
Comment: Almost 1,500 accidents in 60 hours tells you all you need to know about the driving habits of people in the UAE
Dubai motorists are more apt to slow down for puddles than they are for pedestrians. The only people who think this is hyperbole are the ones who don’t drive in the UAE. There is a clash of civilisations on the roads of Dubai, and it is most obvious when it rains.
On March 26, Dubai Police reported that from the evening of Thursday March 23 to the morning of Sunday March 26 (during wet and rainy conditions), there were 1,447 car accidents. In other words, there were 24 accidents every hour for 60 consecutive hours. There were three road fatalities across the country.
There are 9 million residents in the UAE, and about 15 percent are Emirati, which means everyone else comes from somewhere else. India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Lebanon, Africa, North America, Europe, the UK. We are a United Nations on the roads of Dubai, yet we would never be able to pass a resolution.
The driving cultures from where we hail are vastly different. What is acceptable (and by this I mean what is common practice, not what is legally permissible) varies from continent to continent. When we meet on Sheikh Zayed Road there are – literally – clashes.
I asked a couple of people for their thoughts about driving in the UAE.
A Brit who has lived in Dubai for 10 years: “Looking back, my earliest memory of driving in this country was: How the heck does this work? There was no lane discipline, no respect for other drivers. And the me-first attitude, which still prevails, is awful.”
An Emiraiti who earned his driving licence in the US: “First thing, I noticed was my California defensive driving got me nowhere fast. I was constantly being cut-off, overtaken on the slower lanes on my right and honked and flashed at for driving the speed limit.”
Thomas Edelmann, founder and managing director of Road Safety UAE, said motorists come from different backgrounds and hence, “we have many different interpretations of traffic rules and traffic etiquette. The results are high accident, injury and fatality rates.”
There are several factors that make driving on the roads of Dubai a life-threatening experience. The disparity between the posted speed limits for trucks versus cars; the speed buffer; and even the quality of the vehicles.
Yet motorists do not drive according to the speed limit or the quality of their vehicle. They drive the same all the time regardless of the weather conditions. After all, there aren’t 1,500 accidents during a Dubai weekend when there is no rain.
Dubai Police have said the goal is to reduce the number of fatalities on its roads to zero by 2020; while Abu Dhabi, as part of its 2030 plan, wants to eliminate all road deaths within the next 13 years. The problem, however, will be when it rains.
Luca Cima, who has lived in the UAE for 14 years and is a road safety and racing instructor at Yas Marina Circuit and the Dubai Autodrome, summed it up best: “I find the UAE one of the most stressful places to drive.”
I was driving through an extremely deep puddle about 40m long in a saloon car, so I was driving slowly to ensure that the engine or electrics did not get wet, I large SUV came towards me at relatively high speed causing a huge bow wave, without a care in the world, it was either stupidity or arrogance, not giving a hoot about people walking on the pavement or other cars.
The driving style is linked to the fact there is no patience, which is a virtue, in this country. The worst most rude behaviour is when I am making a lane change with signal on clearly showing my intentions, someone occupies that space from behind because they perceive I am going too slow, nearly causing a crash if the lane I am in ends. This is all about lack of etiquette and impatience, so my advice is grow up or get licence suspended. Its a noble goal by police to reduce accidents to zero but I will never happen without enforcement and attitude change. I suggest bring training officers from western countries with ticket books in hand. They would be busy all day.