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.