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Licensed to kill? Child Ferrari drivers headed for a road near you

  |  March 21, 2013

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ayesha Al Khoori 's blog post has proven one of the most controversial ever, with numerous comments and tweets critical of her attitude to fast driving and driver safety. Of course, our blogs – unlike reported and edited stories – reflect the views of the reporters but not necessarily the policies or opinions of The National and its editors. For the past four years The National has led a road to safety campaign to highlight the issues with the UAE's dangerous roads and driving, championing tougher enforcement of speeding laws. While Ayesha's comments reflect the vantage point of young Emiratis to driving; many readers missed the fundamental point that fast cars and younger drivers are a terrible mixture. Like her progression as a journalist, her blog reflects the start of a journey into understanding the challenges in effecting change. Please keep your comments coming.

Read Ayesha's follow-up blog

The Government is considering lowering the legal driving age so that under-18s can run family errands. Whether this is a step forward on the “Road to Safety” is hard to tell. My father always said “driving is a technique” and I agree. Age nor gender matter – it’s about knowing how to control yourself and your car.

Trusting young teenagers with the responsibility of driving may have a positive effect on some, but it will reinforce the bad behaviour of others.

I began driving long before I got my licence, as did many young people I know. If I could go back in time and drive legally as a teenager, I would go crazy and speed my way across every road and through every junction until my tank ran dry. Of course, others might react differently.

At 22, I have been driving legally for the past four years, which means in the eyes of some I'm a very experienced driver.

I still make mistakes, the proof of which is that I get more than five tickets a month (last year I accumulated Dh10,000, this year Dh3,000 and yes, I know that’s a lot), but I’m experienced in handling a car at speed.

When I got my first car, an old BMW, I would never exceed 80kph or 100kph and I would never drive after dark. Now, when I’m on the roads of Abu Dhabi, you could say I fly at all times! I try to not go over 160kph, but 180kph isn’t unheard of.

I drive fast because I love it. I feel liberated and excited; in a boring life the thrill of fast driving provides the drama I need to keep me going.

My nieces and nephews think I’m a great driver, and ask me to go as fast as I can. I am always in control though. I would never want to hurt them, so I must be careful and responsible even when I’m speeding.

It took me time to be confident enough to drive at the speeds I do, but is that the case for every other driver in Abu Dhabi? Perhaps some people have nurtured their speeding habits less cautiously than I have. Are some learners too quick to speed?

Contrary to what people might think, speeding isn’t the biggest cause of road accidents. In fact, it’s the opposite – slow drivers and overzealous brakers are to blame.

Cars on the highway should travel at a speed of between 80 to 120kph, yet what I saw during a year of driving along Musaffah Road to get to my university, was that some cars would be driving under the limit – sometimes as slowly as 50kph. Which is not only unsafe and ridiculous, it’s frustrating for the rest of us.

Some drivers hit the brakes over any little thing, whether there’s a dead cat in the road, they’re lost in the middle of nowhere, or simply because they’re unaware of their surroundings.

One of the major accidents I was involved in was when I was driving on Al Khaleej Al Arabi, doing a little more than 110kph, when the car in front of me stopped suddenly, causing me to crash into it and ruin my lovely new car’s bumper.

When the police arrived, I was blamed, even though the crash was clearly not my fault. Unbelievable!

This was just one of many ridiculous accidents I’ve seen in the past few years, a number of which I’ve been involved in.

I can’t help but think that many so-called “accidents” could be avoided if it weren’t for parents spoiling their children by giving them cars such as Lamborghinis and Ferraris as soon as they pass their test. What are the parents thinking?

Giving a teenager who just passed his test a flash car capable of 300kph is almost bound to result in an “accident”.

I love fast cars, yet when I see young men driving Ferraris and Lamborghinis I know they will not be able to handle the engine. This problem will only get worse if licences are extended to those who are under 18.

It may be the case that when it comes to teenage driving, it’s a case of going too fast, too young.