Having scraped up a rental car last week, a mere 2.5 hours after getting behind the wheel – and having a friend who was rear-ended on the WAY HOME from picking up the used Mercedes he had just bought – and, well, just having eyes in my head, I am not at all shocked by a slew of recent stories about the mayhem on UAE roads.
I have seen some of the most shocking manouvres as a passenger here. Early one morning I watched from a taxi as a motorcycle screamed past down a main thoroughfare on its front wheel, its driver seemingly hovering in the air behind it. A Lexus SUV passed our car in the fast lane on the highway - but not the way you might think, instead on the inside lane that is not really a lane. We call it "undertaking", for obvious reasons, and it is very scary when it happens to you. I can't count how many times I've seen a group of cars mimicking something they must have seen in a Fast and the Furious installment; and don't get a driver mad, either. He will drive right behind your car, flash his lights, even try to force you off the road. If I hadn't seen all this myself, I wouldn't believe it. (It's also good to remember NEVER to give someone the finger, or even APPEAR to give someone the finger, or even, actually, gesture at all at someone, or risk jail time)
On Monday WHO released its Global Status Report on Road Safety, which found that UAE road users are seven times more likely to die than those in the UK. And you are just as likely to die outside a vehicle - pedestrians make up 28 per cent of casualties. In Abu Dhabi, 38 people die in road wrecks every month.
Another problem here involves people not wearing seatbelts. Almost every car has a bunch of kids standing up in the back seat - I once watched a child with his head perched near the gearshift, his head and shoulders poking out through the sun roof. People are not big fans of child seats either; it's pretty common to see moms travelling with toddlers and babies in their laps.
And even though there is zero tolerance for drinking and driving, people still do it. I've yet to see anything like a RIDE program.
Here's hoping that stuff will start to change.