It is no secret that the standard of driving in the UAE leaves something to be desired. Rarely a day goes by that one does not see some act of motoring lunacy. These include such delights as undertaking; tail-gating; driving ridiculously fast; driving ridiculously slow; and the classic ‘I’m-in-the-wrong-lane-and-need-to-swerve-across-4-lanes-of-traffic-whilst-on-my-mobile-phone’ maneuver.
As a result of these wonderful quirks, and an oddly widespread reluctance to wear seatbelts or use car seats for children, the mortality rate on the roads here leaves something to be desired, with approximately 1000 deaths in 2008. This is as compared with around 3000 in the entire United Kingdom.
This situation is not overly surprising when one considers the demographic make-up of the UAE and the fact that driving culture and education owe much to India, Asia and the Arab World. As infuriating as some of the driving can be, one has to consider the underlying reasons and consider that most drivers are utterly unaware that they are driving like deranged baboons.
This is why I find it particularly infuriating when I see inconsiderate and aggressive driving from those expatriates who should really know better – i.e. from countries whose roads do not resemble war-zones.* Today I had the pleasure of encountering two such individuals. The first was a 4×4 bully who wanted us to mow down a group of pedestrians so he wouldn’t be delayed for 3 seconds as he pulled into a petrol station forecourt. The second was a middle-aged bald man in a GTI attempting to recapture his youth by driving like a tit through the development where we live.**
The sad thing is that cultural exchange doesn’t always work the way we’d like it to. In an ideal world such interaction would always lead to the best of both worlds: fusion cuisine (chicken tikka masala/thai curry in a pub etc.) or popular culture with a juicy hint of exoticism (Sting/Paul Simon/Slumdog Millionaire etc). Unfortunately it can also lead to the worst of both worlds. In this case people who should know better deciding to drive like penises because they’ve picked up the bad habits of those around them.
* – Before I get accused of cultural relativism here, I’m not saying that it’s ever acceptable, only that sometimes it’s more (or less) understandable.
**- I know where you live.