Dubai: Ayub Kolhapurwala was among 10 winners of the Responsible Road Users Award on Tuesday for his good driving behaviour, but what is more interesting is that he belongs to a dwindling group of drivers who have been on the UAE’s roads since the early years of the country’s formation.
Having learned to adapt to the changing roads and driving cultures of the UAE, the 70-year-old from Mumbai, India, who has been driving on Dubai roads since 1975, recalls how motorists in those days had to carry a shovel in their vehicles to dig themselves out when they invariably got stuck passing through sandy patches.
“There were not so many roads back in those days and driving was fun even though we often got stuck when we had to pass through sandy patches,” said Kolhapurwala, who arrived in Dubai 44 years ago, when Shaikh Zayed Road had just two lanes.
“Roads in Dubai were safer in those days, there was not much traffic, and fewer accidents,” he added.
The businessman, who was surprised to get the award after driving for so long, said that although traffic is now more organised, driving has become more of a challenge.
“One has to be more careful now as the roads are more crowded, but with a little bit of planning and discipline you can be safe. I make sure to observe speed limits and avoid rushing,” said Kolhapurwala, whose award was part of the Shell GoldStar Contest.
Organised by Shell in collaboration with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Sharjah Police and Ciel Marketing and Events, the road safety campaign rewards cash prizes of Dh1,000 each to drivers, pedestrians and cyclists for following road safety practices.
Another driver who got a pleasant surprise this morning was special education coordinator, Deidra Williams, who was driving her students through the Greens community when she was stopped by a police officer.
“When I was stopped by the officer, I was initially scared. I was wondering what have I done wrong. I retraced all the steps I took and realised that I had followed all the rules and thankfully it wasn’t a fine but an award,” said Williams, who was glad someone took note of her good road behaviour.
The Texan native, who has been living in the UAE for five years, believes campaigns like these will encourage safer driving.
“I try very hard to be careful and mindful of other drivers,” she said. “I’m glad to know that I’m a good driver and it’s exciting to know that someone noticed.”
The Shell GoldStar Contest is taking place across Dubai and Sharjah from April 8 to 10.
Drivers are selected for following a variety of road safety practices, such as using seat belts, staying off the phone while driving, lane discipline, using child safety seats, using indicators and observing speed limits. For others, it could be the use of designated pedestrian crossings and road traffic safety practices to reduce risk associated with cycling.
“Our winners are safe drivers, those who are courteous, respect speed limits, use indicators, use proper child restraints and seat belts among others, displaying no more than what essentially are good everyday driving habits,” said Roshanara Sait, Director, Ciel Marketing and Events and GoldStar campaign founder.
A total of Dh30,000 is being awarded during the three-day campaign, with 10 road users selected for each day of the campaign. The campaign is supported by Gulf News, Friday magazine and Wheels magazine, as well as Oman Insurance and Porsche Centre Dubai.