Abu Dhabi: When was the last time you got honked at for no fault of yours? Or chased down by an aggressive SUV pressing you to make way if not go past the speed limit? There are good chances that you may say just yesterday because they happen all the time on the roads of UAE.
“They are examples of ‘road bullies’ who not only put their own lives at risk but those of others by driving recklessly – changing lanes abruptly and illegally and almost always crossing the speed limits. More often than not they are the ones with the big cars, the flashy four wheel drives or the giant SUVs,” says Indian Tina Singh who drives a hatchback.
“Just because they have big cars, they think they can change lanes anytime anywhere without even checking on their blind-spot. I have borne the brunt of it all too often. I get jittery when they drive around me because I know I am at a greater risk if we were ever to collide,” she adds.
Singh’s experience isn’t unique in the UAE and experts say one must develop the temperament to be able to turn a blind eye to any hints of aggression and continue abiding by the traffic laws.
“That’s called defensive driving. It teaches you to maintain posture and not get into any altercation which often has led to fatalities,” says Pakistani Mohammed Taher, an instructor at a Dubai driving institute that offers a comprehensive two-day ‘defensive driving course’. “Correct mental attitude is one of the key components of safe driving,” he says.
A defensive driving course is currently mandatory for all new vocational drivers, like those applying to drive trucks, taxis, public and school buses and for companies and homes, says Hussain Al Safar, Director of Driver Training and Qualification at Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).
Road rage, typified by aggressive or angry behaviour by a driver towards a fellow motorist, is one of most common occurrences on almost all roads around the world and Dubai is no exception. Only last year, a video of an Emirati man assaulting an Indian driver in full public view over a traffic dispute went viral.
“Road bullies are cautioned and warned by the enforcement authorities. They are also fined depending on the offence they commit. There is a list of fines for a licensed driver defined in the federal traffic law,” Al Safar told XPRESS. Generally aggressive driving, including sudden acceleration, braking, and tailgating (driving too close to the vehicle in front) are some of the common offences by road bullies in The UAE. Cutting others off in a lane or deliberately preventing cars from merging and flashing lights from behind sometimes aided by loud honking are other common ways of terrifying other drivers.
“It’s unfair to say that only the big cars commit such offences. Anyone with bad road etiquette can be a road bully and one must always be prepared to face them. All can benefit from defensive driving,” says Salim Sheikh, another Pakistani instructor at a Dubai driving school.
James Burnett, the Executive Race and Drive School Manager at the Dubai Autodrome, says they teach all kinds of drivers how to react should an emergency arise on the road in a half-day ‘defensive driving course’ priced at Dh995. “If someone’s flashing the lights behind you, the key is to not get frustrated and not react,” says the Englishman.
“But then there’s also the other side of the story. People drive in the outside lane when there’s nothing in the lanes next to them. Sometimes they are just sitting and not up to the speed limit. People should be using the lanes correctly and have as much lane discipline,” he adds.