Sunday, January 15, 2006

Take Off Those Rose Tinted Glasses

Yesterday's Emirates Today featured this mind-numbing apology/explanation for why road traffic accidents are the major cause of death for Emirati males under 30. I honestly could not believe my eyes as I read the article. First of all the author (Taryam Al Subaihi) tells us that we cannot tell just by looking at a car with blacked-out windows what the nationality of the driver is. Fair enough, I'll give him that. It could be 'a Jamaican who holds a British passport'.

He goes on:

'Yes, some of us do speed and here is why. We are of a culture that enjoys mastering skills.
In the days of the bedou, we were challengers, always attempting to perfect the art of any skill we find our interest in.
Be it sword fighting, camel racing, having the fastest horse or being the best at falconry, as children we are taught to try to reach perfection in any field... to [Emirati] youths cars are similar to how our horses and camels were years ago.
Many of us start driving in the deserts at an extremely young age and we perfect it. And some of us simply take that extra step in trying to perfect driving at fast speeds.'

So that's ok then. Nothing at all like me wanting to master the art of shooting by practicing with live ammunition in a crowded shopping mall.

His parting shot is a corker too. 'The fault lies not just in our youth but also in our roads, which are open to speeding'. Is he suggesting we should tear down the multi-lane highways and replace them with dirt tracks? Has he never heard of the idea of personal responsibility?

This comes in the wake of the end of the experimental raising of the speed limit on some Abu Dhabi roads from 120 to 160 kph. That experiment saw a significant increase in the number of accidents. It also follows the tragic death a few days ago of the 15-year-old son of the King of Bahrain, who lost control of the car he was driving.

I am not claiming that any nation has a perfect driving record. But the facts speak for themselves. When a country loses such a high proportion of its young men in avoidable traffic accidents, surely the authorities should be doing something. Better driver education, acceptance of personal responsibility and police/judicial enforcement unencumbered by wasta would be a good start.


Blogger samuraisam said...

at my school (mostly locals in the school) my friends used to borrow their parents/family cars and just drive around, one of them uses indicator et al, despite being 15.

another one has had quite a few car accidents.

5:03 pm  
Blogger samuraisam said...

he says; Then let me ask you this: when was the last time you saw an Egyptian speed? When have you stopped and said, “Look, there goes an Algerian racing down the road”? Or a Moroccan, a Pakistani, an Indian or Jamaican who holds a British passport?

actually i've been in cars with people that say, Look at that (obscene word) (insert XYZ nationality), and it's rarely locals they are referring to.

5:06 pm  
Blogger sky said...

I was just as annoyed as you by this display of bad writing and worse reasoning.
I really felt for Taryam Al Subaihi while I read that piece actually, it made me cringe.

6:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most young men of most nationalities like to drive fast,british ones included. However, we do our best to educate our own about the dangers of fast irresponsible driving to try and curb them in the UK.

The skill of driving has NOTHING to do with speed. If young Emarati men want to be 'perfect' at what they do, they can go on an advanced driving course in the UK, take the advanced test, pass it and thenclaim to have achieved 'perfection'. The british driving test is the most rigourous in the world, the advanced one even more so.

6:54 pm  
Blogger C said...

Car accidents are also the leading cause of death for young people in the USA as well. It is a global problem.

Immortality is a disease of youth...and that article was rediculous.

I will be moving to Dubai next month and frankly, the prospect of driving around there scares me.....especially since I have heard that in case of car accidents, the fact that I am an expat will predispose me to "being at fault", even if I was not.

I've been there twice now, and the roundabouts absolutely terrify me...

8:40 pm  
Blogger nzm said...

I've just come home from dinner with some visiting fellow kiwis who have also been in Egypt on this trip. They reckon that driving in the UAE is tame compared to Cairo!

And that's after driving down the Emirates Rd tonight - and nearly being sideswiped three times. We also watched in disbelief as a woman attempted to turn left on a 4 lane round-a-bout in the right-hand lane, and almost took out 2 cars who were going straight through on the inside. Then she had the audacity to toot her horn at them!

We didn't care what nationality they were - these drivers were dangerous, had no road sense, and were endangering other drivers.

Taryam Al Subaihi's macho justifications for stupid behaviour by using the traditional "we were born this way" excuse show naivety.

I'm sure that the Bedou were also taught responsibility and to look after the others in their tribe. It's a shame that he couldn't focus on these "inherent traits", and try to encourage his fellow countrymen into behaving sensibly when behind the wheel.

Sometimes, the only difference between smart Bedou and stupid Bedou was often the intelligence of their camels or horses - the more intelligent animals knew when to back off when the going got dangerous.

A car can't do that, so the humans have to realise their own limits.

Times change, Mr Al Subaihi - and changing times must also generate some intelligent thinking - if the changes are going to be for the better.

I'm all for conquering challenges - but I'm not going to risk other people's lives in doing so.

Driving is not a challenge - it is a skill to be mastered. To master something means that you are in control of it, and more importantly, in control of yourself.

1:40 am  
Blogger moryarti said...

driving is a relatively easy skill to acquire .. being well behaved, considerate and tasteful while behind the driving wheel is the challenging part ...

And just for the record, Mr. Al Subaihi's traffic analogy is, by far, the worst i ever laid eyes on till now..

8:34 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The british driving test is the most rigourous in the world, the advanced one even more so"

HAHAHAHAHAHA - In the UK you are not even allowed on a motorway UNTIL you have your license (even with an instructor) this "rigourous test" doesn't even teach people to drive on a motorway. Absolutley insane.

10:07 am  
Blogger CG said...

Moryarti, you hit the nail there, you are right, it is all about having respect & consideration for others. Manners in general are lacking in this country. If people think they do not have to look you in the eye they will do what ever they like (in cars, on the internet etc).
It is a well documented fact that young nationals cause more accidents than any others. Insurance companies actually double the premiums for under 21 nationals.
The majority are raised to believe that they should do whatever they can get away with. As long as they bring no shame on the family then it will be ok.

1:39 pm  
Blogger MaShoKaSh said...

The question in hand is: are they locals who drive recklessly in our highways and endanger our lives? and if they are, why do they do that?

I was born here and I beleive I know what the reasons are and would love if a local guy like Emirati comes to comment on the points belwo.

I beleive local guys aged 18-28 form more than 70% of reckless drivers.

Pls note I'm using the term (reckless driving), other than (Speeding) because I beleive it is somehow different. Reckless driving include tailgating, shoulder driving, fast lane changing.. etc..

A reckless driver does that for one or more of the reasons below in my opinion:

1. Police usually goes (easy) on locals when they break the law. That encourages them to do it again and again. mafy moshkela habeebee.

2. Wasta is so powerfull in the UAE because of the traditional kindness and respect of the bedou people and the phrase (no harm done). Even if one is caught and took to the locker, a 5 minutes visit from a father who knows a sergeant or something will let him loose and back on the streets the next day.

3. Some people have a thought in their minds that laws are there for the non-locals (if we could say). Proved by the soft punishment, they feel they are over the law. This is most obvious with those who drive on the road shoulder. You can feel they think they are better than being stuck in that traffic jam like the others.

4. Money. If you are 'begged' by the government to go to school and college and are educated free of charge. Then 'BEGGED' again to go to work and offered triple the usual salary and promised a position of a manager. If you're given 100 thousand dirhams from the government to get married. If you are given a house and farm, compliment of the local government, and you have 10-15 servants around in that house. You might eventually reach a point that you think you are an emperor or something and start acting as so.

5. Disrespect to others. We have to face it. Those guys were rasied as kids to humiliate their servants, drivers, gardeners and even teachers at school. they are taught to disrespect others, especially if they come from the subcon, egypt, sudan... well, everyone, because they feel they are better than them. I just recenlty knew why they hate people with a british passport. It's because they get paid better than them, well, that's another issue.

4:16 pm  
Anonymous uaemax said...

its all due to being rich and young, and nothing else

as u c everywhere rich kids love to show off especially if they were driving a 1 day old porschee !
im not justifying their reckless driving but i went through it
i hope police implements tough penalties against such drivers

we dont hate british passport holders !

6:43 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHAHAHA - In the UK you are not even allowed on a motorway UNTIL you have your license (even with an instructor) this "rigourous test" doesn't even teach people to drive on a motorway. Absolutley insane.

You obviously haven't taken the british test recently. God help us all if they extend it to the motorways, nobody will pass. It's a tough test, ask any foreign driver who has had to take it to get a british license.

3:04 pm  
Blogger sheikha cheryl said...

Why should there be any personal responsibility in the demographic stated? This is a wellfare society and there isn't true punishment to fit all types of crimes against society.

4:09 am  
Blogger Felicity said...

Just found your blog, it's excellent. I used to live in Umm Suquiem (95-98)now living in Kuwait for the last 5 years. We have the same driving problems and I personally think Kuwait may have a higher accident rate than Dubai. I put it down to the difference in speeds - the maniacs that speed and dodge around, and the terrified in the underpowered cars/vans/trucks who stick to the one lane no matter what going at a snail's pace. The one thing they have in common is lack of instruction. I wonder why this is allowed to continue?
Thanks for reminding about life in Dubai - I loved the place (mostly!!)

3:33 pm  
Blogger Taryam said...

Well well well. What a health blog. I must say, i have enjoyed many of your comments.
As i cannot address each of you, if you those of you who found that article dissapointing, please email

It would also be a pleasure to discuss any other opinions about the column or newspaper.

I am Taryam Al Subaihi

5:59 pm  
Blogger Taryam said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:00 pm  
Blogger Taryam said...

Well well well. What a healthy blog. I must say, i have enjoyed many of your comments.
As i cannot address each of you, if you those of you who found that article dissapointing, please email

It would also be a pleasure to discuss any other opinions about the column or newspaper.

I am Taryam Al Subaihi

6:01 pm  
Blogger CG said...

why can't you address each of us? I would prefer to hear your answers here, let us have an open debate.

A 61 yr old national man that we know was driving down a 2 way road at moderate speed when a quad bike overtook a van coming in the opposite direction and came face to face with the national, and of course they had a head on. The 8 & 12 yr olds on the quad bike were dragged underneath the nationals car. One was dead on the spot and the other was taken by helicopter to The Rashid hospital. The poor national was taken to the police station. In my opinion, the parents of the quad bike kids should be prosecuted and have all remaining children removed from their guardianship until they can prove to be responsible parents. These quad bike kids are the kind of kids who progress to careless driving later in life. The parents must take responsibility and the law must be changed to protect these children from parents who have no sense of safety. To see these parents wailing on the floor of the hospital was pathetic. I have only a few words for them, and that is that I am sorry these children were given to parents who don't care.

end of rant


11:31 am  
Anonymous little_dubai said... Taryam..what were you am from the Emirates...and to be honest..that was just lame.. way to differentiate a developed country from a developing country is the driving style..and the driving manners here in the uae..although better in Dubai than the other appauling..
People with posh cars feels entitled..everybody is in the rush..even those who come from countries were driving is safe and controlled learn the Emirati way of speeding..
Its your life you can choose to take risk with it if you are an consenting adult..but when it involves others...that is just selfhish and foolish..and I am a girl..and let me tell you..a reckless driver does not impress me..even if he is driving my favourate car..
and tolerant of the ladies and the elderly when they drive...
Thanks :)

7:14 am  
Blogger Taryam said...

Does this comment go to samuraisam or to all.
Anyhow, to answer the debate about the bikes. Agreed, Laws should be changed as i mentioned it into the column. As for parents, i had not addressed that point but i could not agree more. It all comes down to that really. And in our culture, usually the word of the father is solid. However, i must continue to say that i persoanally would not want to take away the need for perfection away from our youth.
Here is an idea, maybe someone could make a little money out of it. Why not create an enourmous track for the bikes and charge by the hour? I only know of a few in the Emirates and they are quite popular. Strict laws but more freedom in facilities.

5:14 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

Taryam: this comment stays right here - anyone can look at it, but if you want to specifically alert someone then you should go to their blog and post a comment there or email them.

You said:
However, i must continue to say that i personally would not want to take away the need for perfection away from our youth

Fine, nothing wrong with that. Except the definition of what constitutes 'perfection' in the context of driving on a public road. It has absolutely nothing to do with driving at very high speeds: a 'perfect' driver obeys the law, including those pesky speed limits, and does not endanger himself, his passengers, or other road users. It's quite simple really.

And yes, if they want to be racing drivers, go to the Autodrome. Don't even think of trying it on public roads!

5:43 pm  
Blogger Erik said...

Speed limits are set by road engineers based on things like minimum stopping distance on the road surface, line of sight distance, shoulder width, road curve, etc. Ignoring speed limits to go much faster doesn't mean one is a more perfect driver, only that one is a fool who takes liberties with the lives and safety of others.

8:58 am  

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