Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Blame Somebody, Anybody!

For as long as I've lived in the Middle East, I've always been struck by the culture of blame that exists here. Somebody hit your car while it was parked? Well if you hadn't parked it there it wouldn't have been hit, therefore you are partly to blame. I've heard horrible stories of off-duty doctors being fined and jailed because they tried to help accident victims who subsequently died.

So the front-page story in Emirates Today was most welcome: the director-general of Dubai police's traffic department says that drivers who accidentally kill pedestrians 'should not always be fined'. He is referring to the idiots who try to cross our busy highways. I had not been aware up until this point that the unfortunate drivers that this has happened to face a Dhs 200,000 fine. Plus the diya (blood money).

Actually it is incredible that any driver on a highway should be held responsible for hitting somebody trying to cross the road on foot. But the problem needs to be addressed. Highways in the UAE are not accorded any special status, they are just roads where cars can travel fast without having to stop for traffic lights. Although I did pass a forklift truck trundling along SZR this morning.

In the UK, motorways are definitely not ordinary roads: the traffic allowed on them is restricted to vehicles capable of using them properly (nothing slow, nothing with a 'learner' plate and certainly nothing on foot). But in the UK there are footbridges where they are needed, and alternative routes for non-motorway traffic.

There have been times when I've contemplated crossing SZR on foot. I work in Media City, and I have some clients directly across the road in the Emaar Business Centre. So it's a toss-up between a five-minute seriously life-threatening trot across the Sheikh Zayed Road, or a 30-minute drive around the roadworks. The drive always wins.


Blogger nzm said...

How do UK learner drivers learn how to drive on the motorways if they're not allowed on them?

4:14 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

Once you've passed your test you book a lesson or two with your instructor. It's not actually difficult - the hard part is learning how to get onto the motorway in the first place! How to merge with fast-moving traffic that's already on the motorway. Once you're on it - it's very very simple: don't hit anything, and only move into the faster lanes when you need to overtake something.

4:21 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

In fact I'm pretty sure that learner-drivers aren't allowed on the highways in the UAE - I'm sure I'd have noticed if I'd seen any!

4:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not only the pedestrians trying to cross Sheikh Zayed Road that are the problem, but also the many who clutter the sidewalks, which are needed (and used) by many drivers.

5:59 pm  
Blogger secretdubai said...

A sad but real issue is deliberate suicides on the roads. A poor labourer, deeply in debt that he can never repay, knows that his family will receive Dh150,000 (or whatever) - unimaginable riches to them - if he throws himself in front of a car.

Unless a car is actually speeding and negligent, there is no way diya should be required. There is such a thing as an accident for which no one can be "blamed".

8:45 pm  
Blogger sky said...

Please, don't ever cross SZR on foot.
I'd miss your posts too much!


9:35 pm  
Blogger MaShoKaSh said...

"highway deliberate suicides". One of my worst fears as more and more poor labourers are tend to do it. I mean think about it. How many labourers commit suicide every year. Well, if I was going to kill myself anyway, I would do it in a way my family earn good CA$H from it!

11:45 am  
Blogger moryarti said...

In Kuwait, if a motorists hits a pedestrian who is crossing from a non-crossing area (like a highway or something), the driver will not be liable to pay diya (blood money)..

They also have something thats called pedestrian tunnels. Man size tubes going underneath major highways from one side to the other at a tunnel every 1km in inhabited/commercial areas.

Something the guys here should consider, especially for the E11.

12:17 pm  
Anonymous little_dubai said...

LOL Keefieboy...I love your blog..
the highway is crazy...the drivers are crazy..but the craziest thing to do is to cross the road there..
I mean ... the "zebra" lines are not respected forget other places...specially highways..
In some get fined if you were crossing the road in a non designated area for crossing (j-walking)..and if you were also pay penalty..just like kuwait and UK there are alternatives for pedestrians that are safe and frequent...
So I guess Dubai just forgot about people who walk on foot...
So Keefieboy..until then...dont take a chance...

7:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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1:59 pm  

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