Have Dubai drivers become nicer?

Moving back to the UAE has me wondering if motorists are behaving differently

By Michael Jabri-Pickett/Editor-in-Chief

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Photo: Rahul Gajjar
Photo: Rahul Gajjar

Published: Mon 20 Nov 2023, 2:29 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Nov 2023, 8:11 PM

Dubai drivers are nicer. Hear me out.

I moved to the UAE in 2003. I left the country in 2019 and four years later, I am back. That 48-month absence has given me a perspective that others who have lived here continuously might not have.

In the 16 years I worked in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, I put more than one million kilometres on three cars. I lived in Al Ain for 11 years and yet worked in Dubai or Abu Dhabi city. I was intimately aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly of UAE drivers.

This past Friday morning, I was up at 5.20am to play ice hockey at 6.30am at Dubai Mall. The rain was still coming down, but what was most dangerous were the pools of water on Al Khail Road. Long, white buses full of men starting their day, 4x4s with commuters making their way to the office, and Nissan Sunny drivers with single occupants trying not to get swept away.

On my drive to Downtown Dubai, I expected the worst — not necessarily the worst weather conditions (although they were quite bad), but the worst from my fellow highway motorists.

I was in the UAE before the country introduced the black-points system. I know how frustrating, scary, and intimidating Dubai roads once were. Sheikh Zayed Road was where – no matter your nationality – we all came together to fight the same battles against the same aggressive drivers.

What happened on Friday surprised me. Drivers were patient and understanding. They were more polite, kinder, and – dare I say it – gentler. Motorists were slowing down when appropriate and not coming to a full-stop on Al Khail Road. Bus drivers were not aggressive; they were reading the road and seeing that everyone was being cautious and extra courteous and they were following suit.

And Friday was not the only example. In the roughly three weeks I have been back driving in Dubai, I have experienced the wave, which is a common gesture in many countries to show thanks to a fellow driver. It is also a sign that can act as an apology when you know you messed up and forced another driver to react in a defensive way because of your dangerous move.

About a week ago, I saw and heard a driver explain to another motorist (in polite language, if you can believe it) that what the inconsiderate driver was doing was not very nice. The driver at fault acknowledged the miscue and apologised.

In general, I am seeing fewer drivers flash their high beams in the right lane; I’m hearing fewer car horns; and I’m noticing more signalling when changing lanes.

Of course, there are legitimate reasons for what I am seeing and hearing – or not seeing and hearing. For instance, police announced recently that motorists will be fined Dh400 for driving too slow in the right-hand lane. This is a welcome move, but no authority can mandate kindness.


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