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Mon 18 Jan 2010 06:48 AM

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Stereotype studies won’t save lives

Almost 1,000 people died on UAE roads last year. Are women to blame, asks Andrew White?

We get all sent all sorts of suspect publications here at Arabian Business, but this week’s clear winner is a report entitled ‘Soft Driving: Confusing for Others, or a Model?’

‘Soft driving’ is a moniker that has been attributed to the “more deliberate” approach of female drivers, who are “by nature less rushed”, according to the report from the UAE’s Ministry of the Interior. So really, it should say ‘Women Drivers: Confusing for Others, or a Model?’

It seems like an odd question to ask in the first place, as anyone in the UAE who claims ‘confusion’ at the sight of a woman behind the wheel probably shouldn’t be driving themselves. I wouldn’t like to be on the same stretch of road as a driver who flips out that easily: do they lose hand-eye coordination completely, or just forget where they live? Either way, they sound like a genuine danger, so take away their keys.

For the record, the study finds that of the 3,172 road traffic accidents that were recorded in Abu Dhabi last year, just 256 accidents were caused by women drivers. Men caused a shocking 92 percent of all accidents, fender-bending their way into the record books and contributing manfully to the 963 sorry corpses scraped off UAE roads in 2009.

So if they can’t blame the carnage on women, then what’s going on? In another report issued at the beginning of the month, not leaving enough distance between vehicles was identified as the cause of 547 accidents last year.

That was followed by lack of concern for other drivers (542), not ensuring the road is clear before entering (531), and lack of lane discipline (324). 267 accidents were caused due to jumping the red signal, 148 due to reckless driving and 122 due to speeding.

Of the above categories, ‘lack of concern for other drivers’ is the only one that could possibly encompass that deadly sin of soft driving (aka driving like a girl). That leaves an awful lot of death and destruction squarely on the shoulders of those whose primary concern is to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible, regardless of how safely they do it.

The Abu Dhabi police handed out 135 fines to motorists driving below the minimum speed limit on highways and inner-city roads last year. Fair play, those drivers broke the rules, and were punished. But let’s not miss the point: slow drivers are more of a nuisance than a menace, and should be the least of the Ministry’s worries.

Let’s spend less time asking odd questions based on baseless stereotypes, and more time targeting those who race down our roads as though they are playing some videogame in which no-one is really killed, maimed, widowed or orphaned.

It’s the impatient, inconsiderate idiots that overtake recklessly and without a care for other road users, who deserve to be the focus of our opprobrium. Someone should remind them that it’s better to get to their destination a few minutes late, than never at all.

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Sonny 10 years ago

Thanks Dad, I'll bear this in mind.

lokiG 10 years ago

"The study finds that of the 3,172 road traffic accidents that were recorded in Abu Dhabi last year, just 256 accidents were caused by women drivers. Men caused a shocking 92 percent of all accidents..." Given that roads are dominated by male drivers in the first place it would make sense that most accidents are caused by them. The question is what would the percentage be if there were equal number of male and female drivers on the road?

His Excellency Dr Paul 10 years ago

The UAE has a fatality rate that is 5-10 times higher than the UK, yet the UK has a far higher proportion of women on the roads. So whatever the problem is with UAE roads, it is nothing to do with women - whatever some frustrated man at the Ministry of the Interior might like to think. I have driven on the roads here for nearly 5 years. On every single occasion that I've nearly been killed (couple of times a week), it has been by a lunatic man in a sports car or SUV. I've come across the odd slow woman driver, but she's never endangered my life because I've never 'lost it' and caned it around her in anger and frustration. No visitor do Dubai has even commented to me "the women here drive slowly/badly". Plenty have said "that guy is a lunatic". I have no doubt this thread will descend into the normal deluge of comments from hormonally frustrated single men convinced that they are genetically superior and possessed of a god-given ability to break the speed limit and tailgate with no risk to themselves or others, and that the whole problem is the slow moving people who get in their way. As the author points out, slow moving cars are only a danger if you act in anger and frustration. If you really must flash them out the way, then do so from a safe distance and not 3 inches behind them. That is just idiocy, but I see it every single day.

Sonny 10 years ago

It's the lack of lane discipline. Road users tootling along at 80-100 in the penultimate lane cause users in the outer lane to bottle up behind each other as they cannot pullover. This causes those wishing to overtake to swerve from the outer lane across the penultimate lane into the next lane (and often the next lane again) to 'undertake' the driver in the fast lane (going 120). Every country I've driven in (admittedly only about a dozen) has the ruling that the first lane is the slowest and if you are not going faster than vehicles driving in the slow lane you should not move into the next lane. There are issues on the roads here where exit lanes are not clearly marked which causes this to break down in many instances in the first 2 or 3 lanes. But in the outer lanes this system is not adhered due to lack of education or enforcement . Due to this we have our Vin Diesel driving and daft fatality list. Nothing to do with gender. That said my wife reversed into someone on the day we picked up her car.

NTO 10 years ago

The author of the above article would do us a better service if he researched and found the percentage mix of male/female drivers. Then the debate would be in context. However, as a driver that covers the UAE end-to-end every week, I agree with the comments of Dr Paul.

CT 10 years ago

First of all the statistics of road accidents confirming that a much higher percentage of men are the cause of most accidents has nothing to do with the statistics of male to female drivers on the road. Men cause more accidents because to them a car is POWER to a female driver a car means TRANSPORT, getting from point A to B, thus their driving is more practical and safer. But that does not apply to all women, a high percentage of them YES. As for slow driving and the dangers it poses, maybe we need to ask the question....Why is that person driving slow???? I know everytime I'm driving and I come across a slow driver smack bang in the middle land on SZR you can bet your bottom dollar the reason they are driving slow is either they are on their phone, texting or lazily talking about the beautiful weather here in Dubai. Not a care in the world for the driving they should be performing with SAFETY. This practice is called DISTRACTION. This is what caused slow driving.

Baakies 10 years ago

Excellent article, Mr White For once, I congratulate you for taking the time to question the "study" that was sent in to AB, and ask some pertinent questions. I have never read such rubbish as this "study", seriously, what were they thinking drawing those conclusions from the data?

usman 10 years ago

@Sonny .... This happens a lot on Dubai - Abu DHabi highway speacily on weekends when ppl drive at 120 on fast track & dont give way & I am being forced to flash at them

Amira Smith 10 years ago

You are completely right. Every time I pass someone drifting at 60 in a left-hand lane, oblivious to the traffic they are holding up, they are talking on their phone. Of course, this all comes down to the same point - we have an abject lack of police on the roads, cracking down on this behaviour. As long as cars can speed past a police car, without any repercussions, we'll have appalling road accident rates. The gender question is - to me - fairly irrelevant when the UAE continues to fail on the most basic road safety enforcement.

Omar 10 years ago

I LOVE this British man living in UAE and his accurate / wise articles that cover the truth and nothing but the truth. I strongly believe that the British media should focus on their HR before covering any story. They should have journalists with in-depth knowledge of the Middle East rather than sending young guys eager to experience the Unique Atlantis at any price without doing their professional work bcz they would be too busy discovering the countless wonders of Dubai / UAE!