Monday, November 13, 2006

Road Stuff

The Government Of Dubai is launching an intensive campaign aimed at transforming Dubai from one the world's most dangerous places for road users to one of the safest within five years. Huzzah!

It can't be done, of course, not in five years, but there's nothing wrong with a bit of ambition. Why can't it be done? Well, it's all down to driver education, respect for the law (and other road users) and effective enforcement. And getting drivers to realise that they are in charge of a potentially highly-lethal weapon.

Deporting truck drivers doesn't help - they just get replaced by new truck drivers who have even less clue about the local driving 'culture' than the previous incumbents. But yes, I'd love to see proper driver education - and I'm gonna piss some of you off now by saying: on a par with Western standards. Drivers from most Western countries are able to get a UAE driving licence simply by passing an eye test and paying money. People with licences from other countries have to pass a test. If there was to be a more advanced driving test brought in (and I've seen things in the press that suggest it is in the offing), then those with licences acquired before the new test is brought in will have to undergo extra training and sit the new test. And we need to see an end to the use of wasta in acquiring licences and in dealing with accidents.

The UK ran some brilliant TV campaigns on road safety about 20-30 years ago. One showed a hammer smashing into a peach - guess who won. Another showed what happened to crash test dummies if they were not wearing seat belts.

Gulf News did a survey on seat belt use and attitudes a few weeks ago. One commenter said he never wore a seat belt while travelling in the back seat, because 'the front seat will protect me'. Sorry pal, the front seat has a steel frame and, in a crash at even modest speed, it will smash you to bits. So, seat belts for all, and proper child seats for toddlers. And no exceptions.

Respect other road users. I remember a phrase from the UK Highway Code 'never do anything that would cause another driver to slow down or change direction'. If all drivers here just thought about that every time they made a manouevre, especially entering roads from a side street or changing lanes on a highway, we would see an immediate reduction in the number of accidents.

So that's road safety sorted out.

On to road tolls. Most of the local papers carried a leaked story from the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) last week. We are to expect an announcement from the RTA concerning the introduction of road tolls from next July on dozens of major roads throughout the Emirate of Dubai. Notwithstanding the fact that I am leaving next July, this is madness. In the absence of a realistic public transport alternative, and the continuing illegality of car-pooling (because it takes revenue away from the taxis), this amounts to nothing more than another tax on motorists. It will have minimal impact on car use. It may force a number of Echo and the Sunnymen to leave, but guess what, they'll be replaced by more of same. It may force people to consider using a minibus service (there are dozens of these that run from Sharjah/Bur Dubai/Karama to TECOM/Jebel Ali). But that's about it.

Maybe the leak was a strategic move by the RTA to see what kind of response it got. If so, and if the RTA are reading this, my response is, don't even think about tolls until you have provided serious, viable alternatives to using cars. That means 2010 really. By then the first phase of the Metro will be operational, you will have figured out how to run a bus service (and this must include bus lanes and dedicated bus roads with the magic bollards featured in my previous post) on time, we'll have some ferries and hovercraft running up and down the coast, and, most importantly, you will have fixed the climate so that people can actually walk to the access points for these facilities without dying of heat stoke. Quite an easy job really. Go for it.



Blogger halfmanhalfbeer said...

mwjpfEcho and the Sunnymen = brilliant!

Good post, and I absolutely agree 100%. Road tolls / taxes are absolutely fine but only when there are viable alternatives for people to use.


2:11 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

HMHB: I have to credit Grumpy Goat for Echo and the Sunnymen...

3:48 pm  
Blogger Duffy said...

I can see a scenario where this would work w/o interruption (or at least minimal interruption). Here in the US we have something called EZ Pass which is a thingy you stick to your windshield and it lets you drive under a sensor that pays your toll. There are operable to 100 MPH. On major roadways, all but one or two lanes are reserved for EZ Pass users. All others must form queues as long as most European nations.

5:29 pm  
Blogger Seabee said...

Duffy, that's how they say it's going to work here - an electronic pre-paid tag in the vehicles which are zapped every time it goes past the sensor.

Five years was another of those statements from another planet wasn't it. I've asked it before about a number of these kind of statements - is it a mis-translation, is it a language problem and the wrong words were used, is it just another 'Dubai can do anything' brag - or do they actually mean and believe what they're saying?

5:44 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The UK recently ran a campaign showing the dangers of speeding. I've uploaded the videos from the UK DoT website to Google Video HERE and HERE.

You can find out more about what the DoT has to say HERE at

5:54 pm  
Blogger DesertNorm said...

Duffy - Here in the US we have something called EZ Pass which is a thingy you stick to your windshield and it lets you drive under a sensor that pays your toll. These are operable to 100 MPH.

Ah - it only works up to 100 mph. This should make the SZR safer then.

My Emirates Toady this morning says it will be in place by July 2007.

10:50 am  
Blogger Mme Cyn said...

Latest news seems to be that the sensors will be up by Media City/MotE and both sides of the Garhoud Bridge (this is not aimed at Sharjah commuters, though, of course). I can imagine what the roads will be like up to the interchanges just before these two points. Everyone will ditch out to Al Khail or Jumeriah Beach Road, and then take the Maktoum Bridge. Oh yeah, this will really help with traffic in the city.

3:28 pm  
Blogger Omni said...

Luckily, San Diego hasn't got toll roads; our traffic is bad enough as it is!!

5:19 am  
Blogger samuraisam said...

I think it can be done. It's just going to take a bit of effort, and upping the police presence in the city a bit (something which i notice has started to be done). It is definately possible; potentially not possible to have bad drivers rehabilitated, but definately have them off the roads.

5:27 pm  
Blogger Grumpy Goat said...

"...proper driver education...on a par with Western standards...".

If we treat road safety as a competitive sport where the winner is the one who kills the fewest, the league table looks something like this:

UK: 6.0 fatalities per 100,000 population
Sweden: 6.7 ditto
Netherlands: 6.8 ditto
UAE: 21.0 ditto
UAE nationals: 32.5 ditto

Or how about by vehicles?
Sweden: 1.2 fatalities per 10,000 vehicles
UK: 1.4 ditto
Germany: 1.7 ditto
UAE: 12.7 ditto

These figures all come from the Dubai police website. They're in the Accident Facts report 2002.

So which driving style is more 'correct'? Who's winning?

10:03 am  
Blogger Duffy said...

Desert Norm,

My comment about the EZ Pass was not intended to make any claims about increasing safety. Rather, just that the government can pluck the money out of your pocket at 100 MPH so it may not have a negative affect on traffic speed.

6:54 pm  
Blogger DesertNorm said...

To Duffy, sorry for the misunderstanding. Your post was clear enough.
I was just trying to be ironic and suggesting that if it was common knowledge that the pass system was only effective up to 100 MPH, then, our twisted world being what it is, 100 MPH would become the de facto minimum speed.

3:50 pm  

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