Drivers are ‘selfish with no compassion’
ABU DHABI // The country’s driver-focused transport system and motorists’ lack of compassion are to blame for drivers’ refusal to yield to pedestrians, experts believe.
“By law, we as drivers are required to give way to pedestrians,” said Britta Lang, principal road safety scientist at the Transport Research Laboratory UAE.
“However, if you think about the history of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and many cities in the Middle East, they have been built for drivers and not for pedestrians. I think that it is the heart of that problem – you’ve got a very driver-focused transport system.”
In contrast, the Netherlands has introduced a shared space concept where many traffic modes share the same space, so pedestrians and cyclists are using the same environment as drivers.
“Everybody is tuned to that concept of shared space where every road user has equal rights,” she said. “For historic and built environment reasons, nowhere near that concept exists in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and in the UAE as yet.
“Our built environment is mostly driver-focused so people don’t really put themselves into the shoes of another road user. That’s typically something that equals empathy and changing perspective.”
In Abu Dhabi, drivers rarely stop at a mid-block zebra crossing near the busy Al Wahda mall extension, forcing pedestrians to wait for a gap in traffic or dodge vehicles to reach to the other side.
Emad Ali, 36, an Egyptian sales co-ordinator, said he feared for his safety every time he crossed the street.
“Drivers, especially taxi drivers, don’t respect pedestrians,” he said. “They don’t stop and give priority to people crossing the road.”
This negative driver behaviour has something to do with the culture of driving in the Middle East, said Dr Martin Kramar, a clinical and counselling psychologist at the Health Call clinic in Dubai.
“Unlike in the US and Europe, where pedestrians are a priority, drivers here feel they are powerful behind the wheel,” he said. “Other factors could be drivers’ high stress levels, a lack of compassion towards pedestrians and selfishness.”
Drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians have a poor respect for other road users, said Dino Kalivas, chairman of the driver education and training committee at the International Road Federation.
“This behaviour usually stems from personal attitudes and persons who are impatient,” he said. “Pedestrians often do not obey traffic signals, and this in turn leads to frustration for both drivers and pedestrians.”
Last year, the Abu Dhabi Safety and Traffic Solutions Committee announced a Dh13 million project to improve the road network around Al Wahda mall, including three new traffic signals to relieve congestion and allow drivers easier access to the mall.
Last month, Brig Gen Khalifa Al Khaili, head of traffic and road safety at Abu Dhabi Police, urged motorists to pay attention to pedestrians, especially children, and to reduce speed at zebra crossings.
The penalty for not giving way to pedestrians is Dh500 and six black points, while jaywalking carries a Dh200 fine.
Updated: November 5, 2015 04:00 AM