x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Legislating safer roads

I get a little thrill of sanctimonious pleasure whenever I drive past a motorist who's been pulled over by one of the many unmarked police cars that have appeared over the past week.

I get a little thrill of sanctimonious pleasure whenever I drive past a motorist who's been pulled over by one of the many unmarked police cars that have appeared over the past week.

The pleasure was increased ten-fold one day when I noticed one of the cars that was pulled over was the car I've labelled Red Golf, which once gave me a huge fright once when it zoomed past me on the hard shoulder of the road - causing my little Peugeot to rock from side to side. The Peugeot, or, as I call it, the "Chopper", is a delicate beast, advanced in years, and it seems rude to rush past it like that - like a teenager rushing past a doddering elderly gentleman.

The only action I could take against Red Golf was ineffectually to shake my fist at its rapidly departing rear as I tried to steady and reassure the chopper. So when I saw the owner of the red Golf atop Sheikh Zayed Bridge, being berated (and ticketed), I opened the chopper's window (manually and to my great discomfort) to give him a smug little wave.

My chopper is pretty fast for an old guy. We are not like those pickup trucks who themselves cause great danger to other road users by creeping along at 50kph. No, we go at a reasonable pace, but even at that we are still pushed about and threatened by bigger, newer cars. If you haven't experienced a car bearing down on you, flashing lights, horn blaring, refusing to give you a break when you cannot safely move over into the next lane, then you must never have driven down Sheikh Zayed Road. And take my advice if you have your own version of the chopper: chasing them and trying to do the same thing does not work. Having the chopper behind you making a fuss is not as intimidating as it might seem.

The increased police presence on the road comes after the horrifying death of football star Theyab Awana. It is thought that the young footballer was texting when his car collided with a lorry on Sheikh Zayed Road, which has resulted in the crackdown. Offenders will be fined Dh1,000 based on Article 8 of the traffic law, which penalises those who drive in a way that imposes danger on the public. As well as a fine, the offender will get 12 black points on their licence and their car could be confiscated for 30 days.

That it took the death of one of the country's young stars to stir everyone into action is sad, but at least something is happening now.

The bullying of cars like the Chopper has got to stop. It's unfair that drivers not paying due attention and breaking the speed limit put the chopper and myself - not to mention everyone else - in danger.