Carlease’ Driver’s Handbook for the UAE (pt2)
You say flyover, we say intersection. You say robot, we call it traffic light. You go free left – but stop – here it is free right. And, no, America, no one waits in the middle of an intersection for a left turn… thankfully!
This is the driving version of the game of ‘you say potayto, we say potaato’ in the UAE. Here’s the first part of this guide, in case you missed it.
The UAE is a potpourri of drivers who have cut their teeth driving in places which may belong anywhere on the spectrum – from famously unregulated to impeccably disciplined. Regardless of how many kinks are ironed out when you start driving here, everyone carries some residual idiosyncrasies.
Here are some more ways in which driving in the UAE is different from driving anywhere else.
Right or Left:
Getting used to driving on the right (with left-hand-drive vehicles) is usually the most obvious adjustment that drivers have to make. Even if you have been driving for decades, and particularly if you have been driving for decades in a right-hand-drive vehicle, stay alert to signals for the first few days.
“It’s a common mistake that rookie drivers, sometimes even seasoned drivers, make. When you are turning left, make sure you are turning on to the right-hand side of the road, not into oncoming traffic on the left side of the road!” says Francis, who takes new drivers under his wing for training.
While new drivers will take time to adjust, Francis says that the best thing to do is to stay alert. “You’ll take some time to get used to the UAE system again when you return from holiday driving in other countries. Keep that in mind when you take out the car for the first time after a break. Don’t be overconfident; stay off your phone.”
Up the Interchange, Round and About:
One of the first rules to learn is the logic of flyovers. “To this day, I find that the prevailing logic used to build the flyovers on Sheikh Zayed Road is that the road that looks like it turns right will actually swoop around and go left,” says Sajid, one of the top-rated drivers at Carlease. And please, don’t call them flyovers; in the UAE, they are interchanges.
Roundabouts come next. “Many problems will be solved if drivers intending to take a U-turn on a roundabout stay in the left-most lane and then move right-wards close to the road on which they want to exit. You’re not likely to find much traffic for the U-turn and those trying to get into their lane will not be frustrated by you blocking their way,” says Sajid.
Watch the Exit:
Usman says that the rule of thumb is to move into the lane with the exit much before you’re likely to need one. “Don’t suddenly start veering from the right-most lane to the left-most because you spotted your exit, particularly on high-traffic highways,” he says. In a situation where cars are traveling at speeds varying from 60 to 120 kph, this could be a recipe for disaster.
Most exits are on the right – which is a free right here – but there are still rules.
“Indicate, indicate, indicate,” urge the Carlease team, as their one big driving tip. “If you’re going to change lanes, the other driver has to have time to adjust his speed. He can do that only if you indicate your intentions well in time,” says Usman.
His colleague Noor, particularly known for instilling calm in new drivers as a part of the drill, says, “It’s easy to get annoyed but you can tell that someone is used to driving very differently from the way their car is moving. On some really slow cars you can see scratches on the back, which tell you that they test people’s patience pretty regularly but think they’re actually driving safe by being super slow.”
Some stereotyping is common. And we all like to speculate on where the most annoying driver in the world would have been trained to drive as abysmally as he does. So, in this case, folks, let’s do as the French say, “Tout comprendre c’est tout pardoner,” – to understand is to forgive.
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