Young thrill-seekers race in high-performance vehicles, and their bravado sometimes ends with scenes of bodies flying through the air.
YouTube shows stunts and smashes
A young man in a dishdash stands beside a deserted stretch of road, a car speeding towards him in a cloud of dust. Within a few horrifying seconds it becomes clear that the driver has misjudged. The late-model saloon veers off the road and rotates in the air. Two bodies fly from the windows and smash to the ground. It is hard to believe either could survive the impact. This is just one of hundreds of videos posted on YouTube that show terrifying incidents on UAE roads. Many show young men driving at high speeds, racing or pulling stunts in high-performance vehicles, reminiscent of a popular series of movies from the US launched in 2001.
"This mentality started with The Fast and the Furious. It's a fever," said Mohammed bin Sulayem, a well-known rally driver and president of the Automobile and Touring Club for UAE. "We have to make the streets safer by getting these guys off the roads and into settings where there are proper facilities and safety standards." Police say they will investigate the videos, in which the young thrill-seekers have been recorded using their vehicles to jump off sand dunes, or dune-bashing, and drifting, which involves a deft use of the clutch and hand brake to perform sharp turns and sudden stops.
Informal gatherings are held in remote settings, where the drivers eschew basic safety precautions such as helmets and race in areas not readily serviced by ambulances. For years, young men have participated in racing "teams", where residents from cities across the country gather to compete in saloon cars and four-wheel drive vehicles. They are notorious for eluding authorities and performing such risky stunts as "tashheet", which involves pulling the handbrake at high speed, and "shal", driving a vehicle on two wheels at a sideways angle.
The YouTube videos show such stunts being performed in what appear to be areas around Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi as well as in Saudi Arabia. Dozens of listings appear after typing such phrases as "UAE drifting" and "UAE crazy driving" into YouTube's search engine. Set to rap and Arabic music, drivers in the videos often race down heavily travelled roads and then abruptly pull their handbrakes, causing vehicles to careen wildly as smoke shoots off burning tyres.
Others perform high-speed, 360-degree turns with young men dangling out of windows. One video called UAE Boys (NO HANDS) shows a man driving with his feet while using his hands to smoke a cigarette to Is This Love, a song by Bob Marley. Motorists in other videos are tossed from crashing vehicles, their bodies flailing in the air before landing on pavement, while a few show cars smashing into young spectators.