Popular UAE dune closed after crash kills one: Safety rules off-roaders must follow

'Deflate your ego': Experts call on residents to learn desert driving before going off the road

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Nandini Sircar

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Published: Sun 19 Nov 2023, 4:08 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Nov 2023, 9:44 AM

The off-road marshals in the UAE are recommending that residents proceed carefully when exploring areas with different terrains and comply with the country’s security rules and guidelines.

This advice especially follows Sharjah Police’s decision to officially close the Al Faya dunes area in the emirate's central region, to prioritise the safety and security of community members.

The decision came in the wake of a tragic incident on the evening of Friday, November 17, where an Asian youth lost his life in an off-roading accident in the Al Faya desert, resulting in another Asian individual sustaining injury.

Veteran off-roaders reiterate that engagement in illegal off-roading activities poses a risk to the lives of motorists and the families or individuals accompanying them.

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Avoid crowded places where amateurs drive

UAE national and senior marshal of Dubai Offroaders Desert Driving Institute, Abdullah Muhammad AlBloushi who has been doing this for two decades now, said, ”The first advice is not to go alone. Second, before going off-roading one should ensure that people carry proper safety equipments before heading either to the mountains or the deserts. Certain things are mandatory that should one keep in their cars.”

AlBloushi who has been in the UAE military, hunting and has travelled in different countries to organize large-scale off-roading activities, said “communication” is critical to survival when in danger.

“There should be interaction between you and the other car(s). Stay far away from crowded places. The location where the accident happened recently was really crowded and many people drive erratically without following proper protocols.”

“Even incidents of fire could occur because one is not driving on a proper road. So, preparedness to control such untoward situations is necessary. There is a recommended amount of off-road equipment to make sure one can be self-reliant. Together with a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher is also a must. This is for the desert.”

He explains in mountainous regions, knowledge of the terrain is crucial due to rapidly changing weather conditions.

“Even if it’s dry where you plan to camp, valleys can channel water from distant areas, causing unexpected changes. It’s important to be aware of these factors. Specialized training, including driving and recovery courses, caters to beginners, intermediates, and advanced individuals helping navigate these challenges in mountainous and desert environments. One should acquire such training before venturing out,” added AlBloushi.

Meanwhile, Dubai Offroaders Desert Driving institute has expanded its off-road training offerings in response to growing desert tourism.

These courses aim to provide practical skills to drivers of varying experience levels, facilitating safer and more enjoyable off-road adventures.

In light of a significant surge in desert tourism in the UAE, the institute has responded to the demand by enhancing its offerings.

Among the courses offered, the “Essential Off-Road Driving Course” aims to open up opportunities for exploration across diverse UAE landscapes.

Within a year of arriving in the UAE from England, David Wood has participated in more than 100 off-road adventures. He's explored with the Dubai Offroaders group and ventured independently with friends from the automotive industry.

Highlighting the dos and dont's, the industry veteran said “Safety is top priority. Make sure you're well equipped and don't go out on your own because if you get stuck, and if you are in a situation where you aren't able to call out, then it’s going be challenging.”

Know your exit points well

He explains such distant locations have weak signals and simple things like smooth communication may seem like an impediment.

“Always know where your exit point is, and make sure you've got a GPS that will get you to your exit point. While that might seem obvious, a lot of people go into the desert and just don't even consider where they're going to come out. They'll get lost. So, the dos are to make sure your vehicle is serviced. Make sure it's well equipped. Make sure you have recovery equipment, and adequate knowledge, and always go with a buddy,” he added.

Go with a minimum of three vehicles; carry a safety flag, ample food, and water

Belgian national Frederic Nuyttens who is a marshal with Carnity Off-Road Club recommends joining an off-road club with other 4x4 enthusiasts to explore the hobby safely and connect with like-minded people.”

“If you are driving alone, and if you are stuck, you might run out of water or end up with a heat stroke, especially in the hot summer. So, go with a minimum of three vehicles and carry enough supplies and water.

He points out that rollover or vehicle crash risk is small but existent and one should never fight gravity when driving in the dunes.

“Obtain a proper desert driving training or join an off-roading club that has a structure in place that focuses on your safety. Also steer clear of typical overcrowded areas where many enthusiasts repeatedly climb well known hotspot dunes. It will be necessary to deflate your tyres before going on the sand, and a safety flag should be a part of your safety items as well."

“Most important of all is to deflate your ego as well when going off-roading by respecting the terrain and not overrating your skillset. Take it one step at a time and get proper guidance,” added Nuyttens.

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