| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Do as you’re told

No, we’re not talking to your kids, we’re talking to you, mums and dads, about your behaviour on the road

This is a true story: a man, driving along at a steady 80kph, was nibbling away on a Kit Kat. He dropped a bit and, eager not to get chocolate all over his business suit, glanced down to pick it up. His car hit the barrier of a bridge, rolled over and stopped dead. His laptop flew off the back seat, severing his spinal column. He woke up in hospital two days later permanently paralysed from the waist down.

Now, think about how we drive in Dubai. Do we ever tootle along at a mere 80kph? If you’re not eating chocolate are you perhaps chatting on your mobile phone or texting? Maybe there’s no laptop on your backseat, but is there an unrestrained child instead? (It’s staggering how many people are seriously injured or even killed in accidents when whacked by an unrestrained passenger in their own vehicle.) The potential for damage, injury and death on Dubai’s roads – for both kids and adults – is unimaginably horrific.

We’re not trying to scaremonger. We just want you to know the facts because, as parents, some of the driving ‘techniques’ we witness on our roads leave us cold. The speeding, the tailgating and the erratic lane changes keep us awake at night – and that’s before we get started on the lack of child restraints (see our plea to buckle up in April’s issue).

‘The main causes of death on Dubai’s roads include speeding, sudden change of lanes, lack of concentration due to the use of mobile phones, jumping a red signal and fatigue,’ says Peyman Younes Parham, director of marketing and corporate communications at Dubai’s Road Transport Authority (RTA).

Shockingly, experts estimate that there’s a road accident in Dubai every two minutes. ‘I’m amazed by the lack of care and respect on the road,’ says Robert Hodges, development manager at Emirates Driving Institute.

Believe it or not, there are rules in place to make sure we drive safely (see ‘Take Care’, right), but these are, given the blatant flouting we see every day, extremely difficult to enforce. Speed limits are a prime example. They’re clearly marked and many of us drive cars that beep if we go over the maximum 120kph, but to look around, we seem to be sharing the asphault with wannabe Lewis Hamiltons. This is bad news: not only are we more likely to have an accident (vehicles operate very differently at 150kph to how they do at 50kph), but we’re more likely to die or suffer serious injury.

‘If you could see what happens in a high-speed accident, you would never, ever speed again,’ says Hodges, who has more than 30 years’ experience, is the only certified driving risk analyst in the Gulf and, by his own admission, is ‘passionate’ about road safety. ‘It’s not just people lying on the road bleeding. There are body parts all over – bits and pieces that used to be human beings.’

Then, of course, there’s the popular Dubai sport of tailgating. Yes, the pace of life here is frenetic, and apparently Dubai folk are three times more stressed than others elsewhere in the UAE. That translates into impatience and dubious driving as we dash from one appointment to another, and woe betide the poor speed-limit-stickler who gets in our way.

By Karen Iley
Time Out Dubai,

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