DUBAI Our car can be as recalcitrant as a wild beast. Sadly most of us don’t realise this. We caress the bonnet of our vehicles and say appreciatively: “It does 140 km/h so effortlessly you wouldn’t even notice.” 140 km/h is almost 130 feet a second - a speed which puts a huge responsibility on human reflexes. One split second lapse in concentration and the 3,000 pound hunk of steel can transform into a rampaging bull.
Road accidents kill 1.25 million worldwide a year. In Dubai alone, they snuffed out 166 lives in 2015.
“But motorists don’t translate dry statistics into a reality of blood and agony. Figures exclude the pain and horror of savage mutilation—which means they leave out the point. They need to be brought closer home,” wrote American freelance writer J.C. Furnas in a commissioned article for Readers Digest 80 years ago. Titled And Sudden Death, the write-up first appeared in 1935 and has since remained the most reprinted article in the magazine’s history.
Here is an extract: “The driver is death’s favourite target. If the steering wheel holds together it ruptures his liver or spleen so he bleeds to death internally. Or, if the steering wheel breaks off, the matter is settled instantly by the steering column’s plunging through his abdomen.”
Some years ago a senior official of the Dubai Police Traffic Department described the grisly scene at an accident.
“It was an SUV that went up in flames after a high speed crash. The fetid stench of burnt human flesh hung in the air as we approached the spot on Shaikh Zayed Road. There were six occupants; all charred beyond recognition. The driver’s hand was still on the steering wheel while other bodies lay slumped in the seats like dummies. They were all very young.”