We are often our worst enemies on the road

Far too many of us perceive the network of roads as a battlefield.

By Bikram Vohra

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Published: Tue 28 May 2019, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 28 May 2019, 11:04 PM

Perhaps the most futile loss of life occurs on the roads. The sheer purposelessness of the tragedy is compounded by a string of 'what ifs' as one tries to come to terms with the blow. As the police will confirm just a little more care and courtesy is all that is needed to save a life and through a concerted road courtesy by everyone several lives literally down the road.
The authorities have spent millions in a place like the UAE to educate people on the hazards of dangerous driving. Surely, if they are concerned for your life, so should you be.
And yet we are often our own worst enemies. Far too many of us perceive the network of roads as a battlefield in which our egos and our esteem are predicated to 'beating' the other motorists into submission. As if a car passing us is a sign of abject defeat.
While speeding still ranks as the top cause there are two variables that do not get mentioned very often. The first is impatience displayed over slights, real or mostly imagined. The need to push someone out of the fast lane or pass him on the wrong side, to be a lane changer without due warning and get ahead is a major cause of crashes. By the same token there is road rage. Normal, calm and rational people turn into monsters and lose all equilibrium because they believe they were insulted on the road. In the great cosmic sense this is so trivial - to lower your safety standards just to get even makes no sense.
The psychological barrier that this sort of accident does not happen to us but to other people also makes a contribution because we fail to realise we are other people. And that speeding car is a great leveler, it does not care who you are. In the UAE distraction by mobile phones, texting and letting the eyes stray from the job of driving plays a sizeable part. Again, many of us have the mindset that we are above the law and these rules are not for us.
It is exactly this misplaced arrogance that sets off the dominos to disaster. And kills an average of two people every day. That is over 700 lives, often more than the annual loss in all of global aviation. According to official statistics released by the UAE Ministry of Interior in the past four years from 2014 to 2018, 3,123 people died in car accidents and another 31,829 were injured. The grand irony is that it is the young aged between 18 and 30 years who make up the majority of the victims and also the contributory cause of the accident.
The mortality rate was 3.83 last year for every 100,000 people. The police are working tirelessly to reduce this to below three but we are not helping them.
In one given morning you can see people leaping past an amber light like their lives depended on it. You can see cabbies making sharp turning circles to cut off maybe ten metres and triggering brake stomping in oncoming traffic. Many SUV drivers drive as if they own the roads. You can witness pedestrians tottering on the edge of the road and then in a rush of absurd bravado dashing past oncoming traffic. Motorcyclist delivery men weaving their way precariously through still traffic like they were knitting a sweater. Vans with the legend 'Am I driving safely?' loaded with sleepy staff engaged in a race with themselves, those small wheels screaming piteously for traction. Till they flip over. The almost obscene act of rushing across a major highway and clambering over the divider to avoid using an over or underbridge is still pretty common. And if you are observant you will see that smokers reduce their attentiveness by as much as 30 per cent and it does affect your peripheral vision even though little is said about that. We ban mobile phones but smoking is also a distraction.
Another incredible fact is that bad tyres are accepted by car owners till they literally become threadbare or reluctantly changed when rejected at the annual passing of the vehicle. Then you wonder why you had a blowout.
The recent death of a young teenager has shaken everyone because it was poignantly wasteful. But if only we would learn from such horrific incidents rather than let it slip into the archives of memory it would be of so much help to the police to keep you alive.

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