ABU DHABI // The country's top rally driver has appealed to motorists to keep a cool head when confronted by aggressive driving. Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, who is ranked 12th in the FIR World Rally Championship and is also the public face of the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi's Drive Safe, Save Lives campaign, said drivers who reacted to bad driving risked causing accidents.
"If the guy's going really crazy and wants to pass the speed limit, if the roads are open and there are no cars in your path, it would be best to pull out of the way and just let him go," Sheikh Khalid said. "When responding to an aggressive driver who tries to threaten you and comes very close to you, the most important thing is not to respond but to let him go. "You want to avoid the same behaviour because you may yourself cause an accident."
Sheikh Khalid made the comments after examining a video showing bad driving recorded by The National. In it, an alarmingly high number of traffic laws are shown being broken during a three-hour commute, starting from the capital and on to the main motorway to Dubai, including rampant speeding and overtaking on both the left and right hard shoulders. The footage also supports the findings of a World Health Organisation report, released last month, that found UAE roads to be some of the world's deadliest.
It shows scores of motorists blatantly disregarding the safety of others. In trying to overtake slower-moving traffic, for example, many flashed blindingly bright high beams and tailgated vehicles at uncomfortably close ranges. At one point, a white Toyota Land Cruiser is filmed trying to intimidate the camera crew's four-by-four, following it with flashing high beams and, after five minutes of bullying the vehicle, attempting to run it off the road.
Much as the victim of such road rage would want to respond, Sheikh Khalid said it was best to let aggressors pass by for the authorities - or worse, a traffic accident - to deal with their behaviour. "You might want to react, but if you hit your brakes hard, that may well cause an accident, too," he said. "Whenever you follow the law, you're in the right; and you'll not only save yourself from an accident, you'll save others from such an outcome."
Part of this required ensuring your own safety and that of fellow passengers, first and foremost by always remembering to buckle up. "The most important thing is for everyone to wear their safety belts," he said. "This is a fairly new concept in this country, when compared to Europe. It may be annoying when you first wear one, but I promise you'll get used to it." Sheikh Khalid also had advice for would-be traffic offenders, particularly people who use the hard shoulder for overtaking. "Whenever you overtake a car in the emergency lane, that's really dangerous because there might be a car parked there. There might be an accident, someone who had a flat tyre. That's why they call it an emergency lane."