Saturday, December 1, 2007

Dangerous Driving

People drive at excessively-high speeds in Abu Dhabi. Car accidents here are often fatal. Twice this week, five members of a single family were killed in car accidents in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

On Sunday, a speeding car slammed into the car in front of it, causing the second car to hit a third car. The driver of the third car, a 26-year-old Emirati, his 18-year-old sister, and his three young nieces were all killed instantly as their vehicle was thrown into oncoming traffic on Musaffah Bridge, Gulf News reported.

Tragedy struck again on Thursday, when five members of an Asian family died in a highway accident in Al Ain. Their Land Cruiser was struck by a speeding BMW and "flipped over several times before crashing into the iron fencing by the roadside," according to the Khaleej Times. Three of the victims were in their 20s or 30s. The other two were 50 and 65 years old. In addition, a two-year-old and a 3-month-old were brought to the hospital in serious condition.

I grew up in suburban New York. Once I got my driver's license, my father made me drive every weekday of the summers into New York City. I worked at Tiffany & Co. while off from college. I never minded driving in New York City.

Shortly after getting married, I moved to New Hampshire, where people are exceedingly polite on the roads. Initially I had to hold myself back from honking the horn if the driver in front of me didn't immediately go when the light turned green. After all, I might end up sitting next to that person in church.

Abu Dhabi is home to a lot of aggressive, hazardous driving. No one seems in a rush in this country until they get behind the steering wheel. While many drivers are skilled at slicing across lanes, there are a fair number of absolute lunatics on the roads here.

A few of my personal driving habits: if possible, I stay out of the left lane. It's known as "suicide lane" because of the speeding cars that zoom up behind you from out of nowhere. They flash their high beams into your rear window, as if to say, "get out of the way or I'll drive right over you," which I think they would gladly do.

I also take my foot off the gas when approaching a traffic light, just in case it's about to turn yellow. Once it turns yellow it will turn red about three seconds later. And I know what could easily happen if I sped through a red light in Abu Dhabi.

(M took the photo above on a rare rainy day in Abu Dhabi. Fortunately, there were no fatalities in this accident.)

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