29 October 2005

A Theory of Driving Cultures

I mentioned the crazy driving in Dubai before, and I have now formed a theory to explain the phenomenon.

I have decided that most people (there are exceptions) don't drive badly per se, rather this is a place where driving cultures collide. These cultures are diametrically opposed to each other and derive from the vastly different infrastructures of the countries where people learned to drive. So you get drivers from the sub-continent who are used to terrible road conditions, potholes and non-existent curbs; who therefore don't have any lane discipline, instead using the road space as efficiently as possible even if that means making four lanes out of three; and who consider road signs and traffic lights optional. On the other side of the spectrum you have Europeans who are genetically imprinted with the traffic rules handbook and who are used to being fined large amounts of money for any infringements of the law.

A variation of this culture clash is the European versus the American systems of over- and undertaking, which are incompatible. And amongst all this potential for chaos you have Arab drivers who routinely break the speed limit because they factor the cost of fines into the annual re-registration fee for their car, who seem to have a different understanding of road curtesy and who think nothing of making use of the hard shoulder to avoid a traffic queue. All this coupled with the atrocious local traffic situation and short-sighted infrastructure planning has seen Dubai's roads become an increasingly frustrating place to be, with accidents and jams making journeys impossibly long.

Statistics fromDubai's General Department of Traffic quoted in today's Emirates Today newspaper mention that while a third of all fatal accidents in Dubai last year were caused by UAE nationals, only one fifth of the dead were UAE nationals. The head of traffic safety, Khalfan M Al Barwani, pointed out that most of the drivers are young men, and that most of the accidents were due to speeding. Recently a driver was arrested after doing 200kph without a driving license.

No comments:

Post a Comment