UAE: Speeding drivers survive horrific accidents, but haunted by losses they caused

One motorist was so traumatised that he confined himself to his house and eventually lost his job

by

Sahim Salim

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Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File

Published: Thu 28 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 28 Dec 2023, 10:38 PM

It was like any other day for UAE resident K.M (name withheld to maintain patient confidentiality), a 41-year-old truck driver, but it changed life as he knew it forever. For some reason, he was speeding on a major road when he saw the car in front of him come to a stop after the traffic signal turned red. He hit the brakes, but could not stop in time and crashed into the car.

The accident he caused resulted in the death of a 37-year-old woman who was in the vehicle. K.M’s physical wounds healed quickly, but he was left emotionally scarred. Such was his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that he isolated himself from society and lost his job.

“Confined at home, he experienced nightmares, flashbacks and recurrent and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic accident. He started getting aggressive against his family members and had suicidal thoughts. He had to be hospitalised after an evaluation by a psychiatrist,” said Dr Halah Dawood, general practitioner – Emergency, Aster Hospital, Al Qusais.

Dr Halah Dawood. Photo: Supplied
Dr Halah Dawood. Photo: Supplied

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The emergency doctor, who sees accident cases routinely, was speaking to Khaleej Times as speeding and reckless driving dominate headlines over casualties reported recently. Five young men were seriously injured after a driver performed dangerous stunts in Dubai this month. In a separate incident, a young couple died after their speeding car fell from a bridge in Dubai.

These are incidents that get reported. There is another side to accidents — that of drivers who survive after causing them.

Dr Amine ben Abdallah, emergency - general physician, Thumbay University Hospital, narrated the incident of A.K, a young student who was rushing home after a busy day at university. He reached a UAE highway, and in his hurry to get home, started speeding, but got into a major accident. He survived with multiple fractures that required a month-long hospitalisation, followed by rehabilitation for his limbs.

Dr Amine ben Abdallah. Photo: Supplie
Dr Amine ben Abdallah. Photo: Supplie

“As he struggled with the physical and emotional fallout, A.K experienced a strong sense of regret. He replayed the events in his mind, questioning how he could have acted differently to prevent the tragedy. The weight of the guilt and the realisation of the harm caused to others and himself was overwhelming,” said Dr Amine. “Individuals involved in speeding-related accidents often express deep remorse and regret for their actions, recognising the impact not only on their own lives but also on the lives of others. This is characterised by feelings of guilt, sorrow, grief, and a sense of responsibility that can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. In the aftermath, a significant number of individuals also struggle with PTSD, adding an additional layer of difficulty to their recovery.”

Dr Halah said almost all the victims who have caused accidents are burdened with guilt, regret, and self-blame. “Most of them would require psychological support to help them alleviate some of the traumatic impact caused,” she added.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File

Injuries for life

Many of the emergency cases that hospitals deal with are related to speeding and irresponsible driving. At Thumbay, its emergency department receives an average of five to 10 accident cases a month.

“The hospital has seen patients with severe fractures, multiple polytrauma cases, and situations in which critical organs, such as the lungs, have been pierced. Sadly, some of these situations have been so severe that they have resulted in fatalities for both drivers and passengers,” said Dr Amine.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File

Among the worst cases Dr Halah has seen is that of a 41-year-old man whose vehicle had flipped over. He survived, but lost vision in the right eye permanently. He had excruciating pain in the hip, multiple fractures and suffered injuries in the face, eyes and scalp as shards of glass penetrated them.

In another speeding-related accident, a 24-year-old was left paralysed for life after he suffered a spinal cord injury.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File

Dr Amine has seen cases of spinal fractures that have left accident victims hemiplegic or paraplegic. “Among the survivors, there are those who endure months in a vegetative state or coma, necessitating multiple spine surgeries. While these interventions may succeed in keeping them alive, the aftermath often involves paralysis, either to the lower body or to one side of the body. The long-term and often irreversible nature of these injuries not only poses significant challenges for the individuals affected but also to the entire family,” he added.

Dr Halah said road accidents have “devastating consequences”, including loss of life. Physical injuries and emotional trauma among the survivors have a “significant impact on quality of life” for the victims and their families.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File

Changing personal driving styles

The nature of injuries the two emergency doctors have seen are so intense that they have become cautious drivers themselves.

“Having seen all the physical and emotional consequences, I am more aware and conscious of my driving and speed,” said Dr Halah.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File

For Dr Amine, the nature of his job has resulted in a “heightened sense of responsibility that contributes to adopting a more cautious and considerate driving style”. He personally reports reckless driving — both to companies and authorities — whenever he sees it.

“Ultimately, the collective efforts towards safer driving can contribute to reducing the frequency and severity of accidents, creating a safer environment for everyone on the road,” he added.

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