DUBAI // A video has been posted on the internet showing young drivers performing stunts on the Sheikh Zayed Road, just weeks after Dubai police announced the formation of a special task force to combat reckless driving.
The video clip, which was posted on YouTube and lasts a little less than three minutes, shows a pick-up truck intentionally spinning and skidding across the road while a 4x4 zig-zags across six lanes of traffic balanced on only two wheels. The shocking images have triggered a furious response from motoring experts, who have criticised the drivers' disregard for safety and the lives of other drivers.
"I just think it's outrageous this sort of thing is done on a public road," said Peter Richardson, the general manager in charge of technical operations at the Emirates Driving Institute. "What words do you use? The one on the tip of my tongue all the time on the roads now is 'selfishness'. The people participating in this are being so narrow-minded and so incredibly selfish that they think they can act like this on a road and put themselves and others on the road in jeopardy."
One driver in the video, which was filmed on a section of the road near the Al Manara exit, performs "doughnuts" and "burnouts" in a pick-up truck while swerving across the road. A nearby 4x4 performs a "shal", balancing on two wheels while in forward motion. A "doughnut" is a manoeuvre in which the driver turns the steering wheel until it locks while skidding to leave a circular-shaped tyre mark on the road; "burnouts" involve accelerating so quickly that the rear wheels skid and smoke, also leaving a trail on the road.
Other motorists caught up in the commotion are seen in the video slamming on their brakes. UAE traffic authorities say they are keen to stamp out this dangerous practise, which has become common practice in GCC states and is popular amongst bored, privileged and disaffected youth, said Bernadette Bhacker, a Gulf-based lawyer and developer of Salim and Salimah, a child passenger safety programme in Oman.
"As shocking and deadly as these activities are, they are just the extreme manifestation of a lack of a road safety culture," she said. "It is obvious that the participants filmed in the video do not expect any serious consequences." Hashim Sarhan, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Sharjah, said there were many factors behind the potentially deadly behaviour. Some young men simply had too much spare time on their hands and purchasing power that had allowed them to buy high-performance vehicles, he said.
He also cited a lack of parental supervision and authority figures for young people. Youths driving aggressively may also be trying to compensate for low self-esteem, or may feel that the rules of society do not apply to them, he said. The 31-year-old Syrian who posted the video to YouTube on Monday said he believed that the drivers were "venting". "They have to vent out because they can't do it anywhere else," said the man. He declined to give his real name and said he had copied the video from a friend's Facebook account.
Ahmad al Zarouni, a 23-year-old Emirati student, said pulling stunts and driving over the speed limit on public roads is very common among youngsters. "We know on which roads the police patrols are and we plan our activities around them. There are some streets that are easier than others, so different groups from different emirates come to take up challenges," Mr al Zarouni said. Dubai Police, who are seeking to achieve a statistical death rate of zero per 100,000 inhabitants on the emirate's roads by the year 2020, have a copy of the video, but it was unclear whether they were investigating. A police official said the force would not comment on the specific video.
Since the launch of the new taskforce, in April, 46 cars have been confiscated and more than 4,100 fines issued. Main offences have been reckless driving and tailgating. The force is deploying police patrol and civil cars around the clock on the main roads of the city, including Sheikh Zayed Road and Emirates Road, to catch offenders. @Email:email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org