Dude, Where’s My Car? – Driving in Dubai for Dummies!
The girl with the dragon tattoo driving beside your car on Sheikh Zayed Road seems to be a multi-tasking guru. While driving she is talking on the phone, checking emails, applying mascara and feeding her newborn sitting in her lap. Simultaneously. You know the Girl is Playing with Fire and very soon she will sway across the lane and kick your car’s bonnet.
Welcome to driving in Dubai, where such scenarios tend to be the norm, rather than the exception. The city has an eclectic mix of nationalities and each one of them bring their own unique style of driving on the race tracks roads of Dubai. Vehicles are left-hand drive, and traffic is supposed to stay on the right hand side of the road, but some people here follow the middle-finger drive, which is exactly what it says…
There are ways to identify potential ‘Street Schumachers’ and take necessary action. A fancy registration plate is a dead giveaway. The shorter the number plate, the more you need to distance yourself from the young Aladin. The luxury sports car he drives is only an extension of his PlayStation gaming console, with slightly higher stakes. But, for you, it could be a matter of ending up in prison, or death, or both. Some people involved in car crashes said they had near-death experiences with a 0 (zero) number plate car just before blacking out. It still remains a mystery and has become Dubai’s own urban legend…
The Taxi Driver is another Brave Heart who drives in bumper-to-bumper traffic – at 140km/h! A tiny error can result in a massive pile-up, but you can find them chatting nonchalantly on their cell phones about the big India-Pakistan cricket match streaming live on the radio. The poor passengers in these taxis are hanging on to their dear lives and refrain from taking sides, lest the taxi driver gets offended and turns into Mad Max. Always avoid eye contact when a taxi passes by your car. Any slight provocation and you could be the victim of tailgating, flashing lights and other obnoxious behaviour.
This does not mean that the traffic laws in the city are lax and there is no police patrolling the streets of Dubai. They do a brilliant job and are tough on road violations. They impose hefty fines on violators and reward erratic drivers with black points on their driving licenses. The number of speed cameras installed on the major roads has also increased to deter the fast & the furious. However, some of the Richie Rich adventurous types, race across these very roads, and after a couple of miles will have had enough of their speeding pictures taken to compile a small photo album.
‘Road Rage’ is the term used to describe the aggressive behaviour by a motorist in response to the actions of another road user. It is a Virus which has affected the entire population and is spreading to the new-comers of this city. The soft, gentle and frail grandma, on vacation in Dubai, turns into Conan the Barbarian once she gets behind the wheel on these roads.
Pedestrians are the lowest rung in the hierarchy of road-users and come just above camels and cats. Slowing down at zebra crossings is considered lame and only a minor hiccup for the marauding Top Guns. Changing these crossings to tiger stripes might persuade the speedsters to pause for a while, at least till the novelty wears off…
So how can you always stay in pole position on the Sheikh Zayed F1 grid? Get yourself the biggest, meanest and loudest Monster Truck. Replace the traditional headlights with lasers, which when flashed, can incinerate the car which dared to cross your path. Or you could import an old Soviet battle tank from Kazakhstan with missiles installed. Or simply, stay at home and save yourself the hassle of commuting.
‘Driving fast is thrill; driving safe is a skill !’ But in Dubai: ‘Driving kills!!’
*The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Arabian Gazette’s editorial policy.