The other day I saw an ambulance driving through traffic with lights flashing and horn blasting. No one moved because there was nowhere to move to. One lady pulled over to the side of the road. This got her an angry response from the Ambulance driver who was waving his hands furiously motioning her to drive forward. Poor lady. Newbie Westerner, I thought.
Driving in the UAE can be very intimidating, scary and crazy at first. From dark tinted windows, driving on the shoulder in a traffic jam, no indicators when changing lanes, texting while driving, excessive speeding, babies and children not in car seats – there are a number of different violations that are just not acceptable in Western culture. To be fair – most are not acceptable here, however, there is a gap in traffic education and application. Don’t let this scare you from driving. Driving is quite necessary. Especially if you live off island.
People here DO drive crazy. I cannot even categorize it into a particular nationality because I think if you have been here long enough you assimilate. I have caught myself driving on the inside lane of a traffic circle and turning right without indicating. Shameful, I know. If you live here, this is something that everyone does. That doesn’t make it right.
One summer whilst on holiday back in the States I notice a guy in front of me stepped on his brakes all of the sudden. Of course my reaction was like, “ What is wrong with that guy?” There is no one else on road but us! My mother who was in the passenger seat said, “Well you have been tailgating him for a while now.” I wasn’t tailgating! By UAE standards there was at least 1 car length between that driver and I. That is plenty of room for someone to suddenly pop in and cut you off (which does happen here in Abu Dhabi).
Whilst the driving can take some getting used to, be careful not to let road rage take over. In the UAE people have been put in jail for giving someone the middle finger. It’s true. One has to be very careful how they physically behave whilst driving.
I have heard numerous horror stories of accidents where the driver – let’s say a Westerner – was not at fault – but in the end has to take the blame. This happens. A friend of mine was rear ended by a guy who failed to slow down exiting a slip road. Yet when the traffic police showed up it was her fault for not going fast enough. She was driving the speed limit and had the right of way!!!
This is how I learned to cope. We are cohabitating in a community of many different nationalities and cultures. We have all had different Driver’s Training. Because of this we have differences of opinion when it comes to driving practices. So, I just drive and let drive- which admittedly can be very difficult to do at times.
On the bright side, I will mention is that the traffic standard is improving. Recently there have been many speed cameras installed on various routes in and around Abu Dhabi. This has improved the speed and the level of driving. The appearance of police cars on the more heavily travelled roads during peak traffic hours improves the traffic too…….sort of.
At the end of the day the main concern is SAFETY. Don’t let road rage get the better part of you. Keep your eyes on the road to keep you and your passengers safe. Over time your driving skills will improve. It will become second nature to anticipate the car that is going to change lanes suddenly or cut you off.