The Air Bag Even the German autobahn is less terrifying than switching lanes on the Emirates's roads.
Having discipline on the UAE's roads is vital to saving lives
Discipline. Not nice, is it? But it's entirely necessary for any society in the 21st century and, when it comes to driving on our nation's motorways it's, shall we say, somewhat lacking. Driving here is not exactly relaxing and it has nothing to do with the sheer volume of cars I share road space with, but the erratic behaviour I witness every single kilometre of every single journey I make. Because for all the dozens of speed cameras that conspire to empty our wallets, the real danger in my opinion is not just the frantic pace everyone is intent on driving at. The real danger is a complete lack of discipline when it comes to swapping lanes.
Just last night, as I was making my way home, I overtook a slow-moving bus that was straddling the middle of the carriageway. When I went to pull back in, I was frankly terrified by another driver who had decided (at high speed) to cross from the inside lane all the way to the outside, right in my path. If I hadn't taken evasive action, I wouldn't be writing this now.
In my career as a motoring journalist I have been privileged to drive hundreds of cars on every continent of the world. I have driven through rush-hour traffic on the infamous road around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I have driven through the maze of city streets in Manhattan with thousands of morning commuters. I have driven across desert plains and over mountains in Argentina. I have driven (legally, I might add) at more than 320kph on stretches of German autobahn on a number of occasions. But never have I felt so unsafe as when I drive in the UAE.
Perhaps it's unsurprising that Germany is where I have experienced the best road manners. Germans tend to do most things properly. And when there are roads with no speed limits, it's only lane discipline that saves lives. It's quite a simple process - stick to the inside lane unless you want to overtake. Once you've performed that manoeuvre, pull back into the inside lane, not forgetting to use those strange levers found to the side of the steering wheel - they're called indicators. Try using them, it's easy.
No matter how many lanes there are on a road, we should only use the lane nearest the inside. The rest are for overtaking. Carte blanche doesn't work on the roads - it kills people. Weaving in and out of lanes is discourteous, dangerous and inappropriate, but it isn't just practised on the Sheikh Zayed Road; it's rife in the city centres, too. Come on people, get a grip and start driving with some manners and a healthy dose of discipline. That way we all might live a bit longer.
Roundabouts are another hazard here. In Europe, there's a very simple way to get around these: wait for traffic to stop approaching from the left, indicate, pull into the correct lane in readiness for your exit and make your move. Easy. There is no confusion, no one cutting you up because they've chosen the wrong lane, no danger. Accidents, of course, do happen, but they're the exception rather than the rule.
Speed Kills is a campaign launched by Dubai Police last year, with the goal of achieving "zero casualties per 100,000 of the population by the year 2020". Surely that just means zero casualties?
I would argue that speed alone is not the cause of deaths on our road. It's a combination of speed, lack of discipline and lack of respect for other road users.
I hope and pray this message starts to infiltrate the minds of drivers here, as I'm not ready for the morgue just yet.