Who is to blame for the frustrating traffic jams?

Prerna Suri
Filed on July 22, 2004

DUBAI - Driving in Dubai has increasingly turned into a ghastly nightmare, with many commuters complaining about the careless attitude shown by their fellow motorists. From cutting lanes to zero lane discipline, the list of complaints just goes on.

Traffic jams are characteristic of trade hubs and major cities, and Dubai is undergoing a massive transformation process that is making it an international city in its own right. Dubai Police, however, say they are doing their best to make the roads safer and traffic flow smoother.

Police officials attribute the rise in traffic problems to the different driving habits of people from different countries, which result in incompatible driving styles and attitudes. But the unifying factor for all should be the adherence to traffic rules and regulations in the city, say officials.

Many areas in the city are consequently besieged by traffic problems. One of these problems is that commuters going towards the Al Seef road near the Creekside, from the Strand Cinema intersection in Karama, are facing a tough time due to the careless attitude of their fellow drivers.

Two right lanes have been designated for people wanting to go towards Al Maktoum Bridge with two other lanes for people going straight towards the Creekside. Commuters going towards the Creekside are hampered to do so as the ones who want to go to Al Maktoum block their lanes in the hope of cutting lanes and getting ahead of others.

The problem escalates during peak hours in the evening, with every car jostling for space and those people wishing to go to Al Seef road getting considerably troubled by this. According to traffic officials, drivers in such situations should be more considerate.

But Vijay Kapoor, a resident of Dubai for the past 10 years, felt that only strict action on the part of the Dubai Police would deter people from indulging in such reckless behaviour.

"I drive down from Shaikh Zayed Road towards Bur Dubai through the Strand Cinema intersection nearly everyday, and each day it's the same story. The idea that people can be selfish enough to block other's way just so that they can get that inch closer to the traffic signal just makes my blood boil!" he exclaimed. " I hope that Dubai Police can take a closer look at this problem and help us solve it."

Efforts are being made by police and civic bodies to smoothen traffic flow and penalise erring drivers, according to Mohammed Saif Al Zafeen, Director of Dubai Traffic Police Department. He said traffic congestion on Dubai roads "is very normal and logical", as the growth in vehicular traffic has exceeded the development pace of the emirate's infrastructure.

Dubai Police also say that they are already implementing plans to keep a vigilant eye on erring drivers. Traffic police squads, on internal roads and highways, are already operating in the city, but their daily schedules and assignments depend on the importance of the location where they are asked to operate. In the last 20 days or so, more than 1,000 fines were issued against erring motorists by the 'external traffic police squad'.

Despite this, motorists continue to complain. They say that although traffic policemen are regularly seen around the Strand intersection during peak hours, this does not seem to deter careless motorists from bullying and cajoling their way past others and entering lanes from the nearest entry point.

Some people are also suggesting that certain regulatory mechanism should be enforced such as the placing of traffic cones, as was done with certain areas in the past. But the use of cones is a hindrance and would further complicate the traffic situation, like in the case of letting ambulances move fast, according to officials.

Still others are calling for implementing more stringent measures against erring drivers such as the imposition of fines and black points.

Said Gerard Francoise, a copywriter: "Such people should be fined heavily as this is the only way they will learn to respect the law. I have been held up so many times in the past due to this problem and such action is badly required to prevent people from being an inconvenience to others."

While the authorities are aware of the numerous traffic woes, speeding remains at the helm of the list of problems that worry police. From motorists' point of view, cutting lanes is a justifiable behaviour if they want to reach to their destinations on time, saying that commuting on the city's roads had become a nightmare, and getting to a specific place would take them ages if they stick to proper driving, while others don't.

Fast facts

DUBAI - According to recent statistics, Dubai's road network length grew from 230km in 1976 to 8,857km in 2003, while the number of vehicles increased from 117,800 in 1991 to 430,030 in 2003.

Brig. Al Zafeen, and other senior traffic officials, over the last few weeks, sought to allay public fears about traffic congestion in various parts of the emirate, stressing that new road projects will be implemented soon, to help reduce congestion. They, however, said traffic jams would remain to an extent, as this is a normal feature of 'busy cities'.

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