Abu Dhabi: A few years ago, going for a drive or taking a walk in Abu Dhabi could never have been associated with any unpleasantness or nastiness, but the situation has changed, long-term residents say. "Gone are those pleasant days, now you have to be careful on the road; a car can come towards you from the wrong direction anytime," mused one resident.
The numbers of people and vehicles on the road have steadily increased and driving ethics too have deteriorated, residents said.
"It is a competition to find the space for oneself, and space is dwindling day by day due to the increasing population and vehicles," said Adel Kamal, 42, an Egyptian media specialist who has been living in the city for the past 22 years.
"When you feel that you don't have enough space, you try to grab others' space, that is the scene I find on the road also," he said.
Hiba El Sayed, 32, a Palestinian marketing professional, said she found most people were extremely impatient while driving.
The large number of such drivers has aggravated the situation, she said. She suggests restricting the number of cars per family to two and raising the minimum age to apply for a driving licence from 18 to 21.
Ola Hawatmeh, 19, a university student from Jordan who was born and brought up in Abu Dhabi, says people who think they own the road are the most annoying. "It is an attitudinal problem, everybody thinks that whatever wrong she or he does while driving, is right," she said. "Without changing that arrogant attitude, you cannot solve this problem," Hawatmeh said.
When V.T.V. Damodaran, an Indian administrator arrived in Abu Dhabi 15 years ago, he never had trouble taking a walk around the city or getting a cab. "So I did not try for a driving licence," he says.
"Motorists should stop their cars at pedestrian crossings. Most of them don't."
Damodaran feels Emirati motorists are courteous to pedestrians on roads. "Others should follow their example." Illegal parking on the roads also shows the drivers' disregard for others, he notes. Some pedestrians who do not use designated crossings and underpasses are also to blame, he added.
Efficient public transport is the solution to these problems and the bus service in Abu Dhabi is a step in the right direction, he says.
Focus on human error
Abu Dhabi police are also urging motorists to be aware of mistakes fellow motorists may commit.
Colonel Hussain Al Harthy, director of Abu Dhabi traffic and patrols, said human error is the cause of most traffic accidents and deaths and injuries.
Some of the common errors made by motorists, he says, are changing direction suddenly without indicating, reckless driving, speaking on a mobile phone while driving, not leaving enough space between vehicles and lack of respect for other drivers, he said.
Careless pedestrians crossing in non-designated areas contribute to the problem by putting themselves at risk, he adds.
The police launched an awareness campaign in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Gharbia earlier this month as part of the GCC Traffic Week under the slogan, ‘Beware of Mistakes of Others'.
Curbing reckless driving is a top priority for the traffic department, considering that 10 people have been killed and 24 injured due to speeding during the first two months of this year, Col. Al Harthy said.
Nearly 360,000 speeding offences were also recorded during this period, h said.
"No leniency will be shown to those speeding dangerously, putting their own lives as well as the lives of other road users at risk," he emphasised.
Police recently introduced new radars to deter reckless driving.
"The Hunter" (Al Qanass) radar is a laser-operated device that allows officers to capture a clear image of speeding vehicles, and is also capable of producing videos.
As many as 45 unmarked police cars were also introduced to assist regular traffic patrol cars in the emirate.
- 10 killed in road accidents in January and February
- 358,694 tickets issued for speeding in Abu Dhabi in this period
Have your say
Have you noticed a change in the attitude of drivers in Abu Dhabi? Why do you think so? Are people becoming too impatient? Have you had any bad experiences on the road? Tell us about it.