- 2019 is the Year of Tolerance and to mark this milestone, Gulf News is launching a campaign to highlight the many faces of this virtue
- One of the most important aspects of tolerance, or the lack of it, that comes to the fore in Ramadan involves driving
- Why do drivers resort to intolerance? How can we adopt a more responsible attitude on the road? We will be addressing the many aspects of the problem here
Dubai: The UAE has named 2019 as the Year of Tolerance and to mark this milestone, Gulf News launches a campaign to highlight the many faces of this virtue.
While it is true that tolerance has a timeless relevance, having an immediate goal to work towards, such as the Year of Tolerance, is a great reminder of how each one of us needs to, on a daily basis, make this attitude an integral part of our lives.
Whether at work, at home, in public spaces or in civic life, tolerance of each other’s identities, beliefs and needs is a responsibility we must all undertake.
One of the most important aspects of tolerance, or the lack of it, that comes to the fore in Ramadan has to do with driving. The importance of driving responsibly, of being tolerant towards other road users, cannot be overemphasized.
As statistics year after year reveal, accidents during Ramadan tend to rise. For example, in Dubai, there was a 271 per cent increase in accidents before Suhour in 2018 as compared to the other months.
Thirty people were killed in 226 traffic accidents during Ramadan in 2018 in Dubai and the hours between 2am-3am during Ramadan were the most prone to accidents taking place.
Why do drivers resort to intolerance? How does this impact others’ lives? How can we adopt a more responsible attitude on the road?
Gulf News brings you the answers.
'Ramadan is about tolerance, we don’t see that on roads'
Falah Gulzar, Staff Writer
With Muslims around the world fasting during the day, Ramadan is indeed the month of patience and tolerance. However, there’s one place this attitude is sometimes not reflected during the month – and that is on the roads.
Swerving drivers, rushing to get home is what one usually sees as it nears iftar time. Contrary to the essence of the month, people engage in ‘honk battles’, verbal abuse and sometimes even physical altercations on the road. Some become victims of even more serious consequences like deadly accidents.
Although the number of traffic accident related deaths has decreased over the past two years, 30 people lost their lives to such tragedies last year.
Whether the lack of energy or sleep is to blame, time after time we have seen misbehaviour on the roads during the month which can be the cause of serious accidents. We spoke to some victims.
Reckless driving rampant
Zafar Iqbal who has worked as a driver in the UAE for 7 years spends long hours on the road. The 28-year-old Pakistani national has seen plenty of accidents, especially around iftar time, which keep reminding him to stay calm while driving.
“This year, on the first day of Ramadan I saw a huge accident near City Walk. It was a great reminder right at the beginning of the month to pay attention to the road,” he said.
I was near the Dubai Water Canal and a driver in a sports car was driving extremely fast. It was almost iftar time, around 6.30pm. I can’t imagine what would have happened if his or her car hit something.
However, there are those who have not gotten into accidents but are constantly putting theirs and others’ lives at risk. Iqbal shared such an incident: “I was near the Dubai Water Canal and a driver in a sports car was driving extremely fast. It was almost iftar time, around 6.30pm. I can’t imagine what would have happened if his or her car hit something.”
Speeding is often accompanied by tailgating. This occurs when a driver drives to someone too closely, failing to keep a safe distance between vehicles that can cause accidents and gives motorists lesser time to react.
Transportation and city planner Mohammad Osama Ahmad also experienced reckless driving on the first day of Ramadan. “It was the first day of Ramadan and I was going home from work for iftar on Dubai-Al Ain Road. Everyone was speeding and the drivers behind me clearly didn’t keep enough distance because when I hit the brakes, a pile-up accident occurred,” said the Sharjah resident.
...the drivers behind me clearly didn’t keep enough distance because when I hit the brakes, a pile-up accident occurred.
Ahmad urged people to leave early if they need to reach their destination or be content with being a few minutes late for iftar. “It’s fine to be a little late, your family or hosts will understand. They would prefer that over you getting involved in an accident, I am sure,” he said.
Sales and marketing professional, Arshad Ali also had similar thoughts. “I usually keep a bottle of water and dates in my car, in case I have to end my fast on the road. People should start doing so and avoid unnecessarily rushing to their destinations,” he advised.
Due to the nature of Ali’s work, he spends most of the day driving, even during Ramadan. “The first week is always the worst, people are adjusting to the lack of food and water, and the changed work hours. Those who are addicted to caffeine and are used to drinking tea or coffee get especially frustrated,” he said.
If someone is getting aggressive, try to stay calm and drive defensively at all times.
The Sharjah resident advised people to be tolerant during the month. “I try to give way to those who are in a hurry as much as possible, it’s much better than getting into an accident,” he said.
Ali advised people to drive defensively: “If someone is getting aggressive, try to stay calm and drive defensively at all times.”
Road accidents cause major inconveniences to the driver and other motorists. “They cause traffic jams, financial loss, time is wasted which the driver was initially trying to avoid and the chance of injuries is there with more serious collisions. It really isn’t worth driving roughly,” Ali said.
Rasha Tillo, a student based in Dubai, saw one instance that has been in her mind while she drives in Ramadan ever since she witnessed it.
“I was at a traffic light when I saw two men engaging in a fist fight on the road. A crowd had gathered around them and other men were trying to pull them apart,” she said.
I was at a traffic light when I saw two men engaging in a fist fight on the road. A crowd had gathered around them and other men were trying to pull them apart.
It is not only traffic accidents but road bullying and rage are also issues that are evident during Ramadan.
The Syrian national added that incidents like these are completely away from the essence of Ramadan and a disruption to traffic. “Ramadan is about controlling your rage, letting go and forgiving other people’s mistakes, and they weren’t doing so,” she said.
Commenting further on mistakes people make on the road, she said: “A small mistake can make you regret your actions for the rest of your life. People need to be aware of that.”
With inputs from Malavika Kamaraju, Features Editor.
‘It was a miracle’: Alive out of a road smash-up
25 years after road horror, 69 year old recalls the accident that changed his life
By Shafaat Shahbandari, Staff Reporter
Dubai: Sandwiched between a truck, a school bus and a heavy trailer, Gulabchand Geriya’s car rolled up like a ‘crumpled paper,’ with him stuck in the mangled remains of what was his new Mazda 323.
Moments later an astonished police officer pulled him out with some difficulty, invoking the Almighty for the miraculous escape.
Call it divine intervention or a miracle, Geriya escaped the four-vehicle pile-up with only a tear on his upper lip and a cut on his right thumb that required a few stitches.
It’s been exactly 25 years since the accident, but the 69-year-old still vividly remembers every moment of the horrific crash and its aftermath.
It was a usual warm May afternoon in 1995 and the father of three, who was 44 then, was on his way back home from work when he caught up with his fate that changed his outlook of life forever.
“On May 3, 1995 afternoon, I was coming back home after work. Back then, Garhoud bridge was just two lane. I must have been driving on a speed of less than 60km/hour when I saw a soft drink delivery truck abruptly stopping before my car (as it broke down) so I had to brake suddenly. I thought of shifting to the next lane but cars were passing by in a good speed and the vehicles behind my car were also at a decent speed and one of them couldn’t stop in time leading to the pile up,” said Geriya, retracing the moments before the accident.
According to Geriya, who works as a Government PR Consultant, his vehicle was followed by a school bus with students on board that managed to stop, but the trailer behind the schools bus could not stop in time and rammed into the bus, severely injuring a couple of students sitting in the last row seat.
“The impact from behind forced the bus to run into my car, which in turn pushed my small sedan Mazda 323 under the soft drink truck. I could almost see my whole life turning upside down before me. My car’s bonnet rolled up before me, shattering the windscreen on me and through the rear mirror I could see the bus jumping over my car and headlights of the bus approaching my car seat,” added Geriya, reminiscing the event in vivid details.
Geriya clearly remembers that he was listening to a prayer on his car audio, which is believed to be effective in warding off spirits and seen to give strength during material challenges.
“With one hand holding the steering tight, I raised my right hand, prayed and screamed stop. Suddenly I felt everything came to a standstill. I looked around, my passenger seat, the front and back of my car were squished as a crumpled paper. Within minutes, the police and ambulance arrived. The police officer came to my car and tried to open the door but in vain. He broke the side glass and single handedly pulled me out,” recalled Geriya.
The impact from behind forced the bus to run into my car, which in turn pushed my small sedan Mazda 323 under the soft drink truck. I could almost see my whole life turning upside down before me.
Recollecting the words of the police officer who was astonished to pull him out unscathed, he said: “The police officer asked me if anyone else was in the car, checked on my level of consciousness, injury and started immensely thanking God. He said ‘I cannot believe you have survived out of this collision, this is a miracle and only the Almighty has saved you, never forget Him’.”
Geriya was not entirely unscathed but compared to the state of his car, his bleeding upper lip and 16 stitches on his right thumb could only be termed as a scratch.
“At that moment, I was not worried about my injury but had two concerns. My children were only aged 10 years, eight years and five months old, I wanted to let my wife know about this incident. We did not have mobile phones back then but the police had. I requested him to allow me to call my wife and informed her about the incident,” he added.
His second concern was retrieving the documents inside his car.
“I work as a PRO and had my clients’ important documents such as passports, trade licences and other government documents. I felt like I lost all of this in the collision. But, the police immediately surrounded my car and recovered everything,” he recalled.
Geriya says that apart from helping him become a better driver, the incident helped him grow more patient and more spiritual.
“I had incurred a big loss in 1994 and didn’t have enough money to even pay for petrol. I was told by a spiritual leader that I will be gifted a new car soon. I feel this was God’s plan to drastically change my life. Through this I understood that adversities brought blessings with them and I grew in honesty, faith and patience,” he added.
Facing the biggest scare of his life helped Geriya put life in perspective, which led him to pardon those who caused the accident.
“I strongly believe good deeds pay back. The trailer driver left the location and Police decided to jail the bus driver for a couple of days and file a case against him. However, I said he was innocent and must be pardoned. He did not intentionally do this to us. What mattered most was with God’s grace we all survived,” said Geriya, urging people to be more tolerant with each other.
He also called on motorists to be more patient on roads, urging them to be respectful of other road users.