x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Don't blame the signals

It's OK to complain about all the changes on the roads in the UAE, but using these changes as an excuse for getting into an accident isn't always, well, excusable.

Be warned: the traffic signals along Al Khaleej Al Arabi have changed.
Be warned: the traffic signals along Al Khaleej Al Arabi have changed.

Last night, I passed by a large accident at an intersection on Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street. Seeing the flashing lights of the police cars and crunching over the debris in the middle of the street, I was reminded that two other people had told me about seeing other accidents at intersections there in just the past few days. This is the same street that has had its traffic signals changed just recently, to have separate signals for cars going straight and turning left, and I have to wonder if that's part of the confusion. For some people, coming to the intersection and suddenly seeing that they can't turn left may be a bit too much to think about.

Yes, it's confusing, just like it is driving down in the capital's Tourist Club Area. The roads are an absolute mess with the construction going on down there, and it seems each time I venture forth, I'm funnelled into a new direction by another one-way street, with signage that sometimes might as well be written in Sanskrit, for how confusing it is. Couple that with the volume of traffic down there, and it's absolutely maddening.

It's OK to complain about all the changes on the roads in the UAE - in fact, we do it all the time here in Motoring. And, with how suddenly things are reworked and redirected, it's perfectly justified to be cross. But my point is, using these changes as an excuse for getting into an accident isn't always, well, excusable. Hans Monderman was a (relatively) famous traffic engineer from Holland who hypothesised that removing signage and traffic control features and using more roundabouts would make the roads safer. He said that drivers, if not told what to do, would adjust their driving accordingly and proceed with more caution and more consideration to others, and it turns out he was right, at least in the models and roads that he designed.

As someone who is in control of a 1,500kg motor vehicle, the driver has ultimate control of their actions. With changing conditions, other bad drivers or simple "road suprises" being so prevalent here, vigilance is essential. If something is confusing, or if you see someone ahead trying some outlandish manoeuvre to make an illegal turn, then just slow down. And if find yourself in the wrong lane for a turn, accept your mistake and carry on to the next intersection.

We need to be aware and be considerate, and our roads will be much safer. nvorano@thenational.ae