Carlease’ Driver’s Handbook for the UAE (pt1)
“Despite the fact that I’d been a driver in my country for many years, when I first started driving in the UAE, there were several things I needed to get used to,” says Ramcy Reginald, one of the top-rated drivers at Carlease.
“Over time, I understood that the others on the roads were also experts in their country once upon a time – however, they may have all been trained to handle different road conditions than those they’re exposed to in Dubai,” he says.
His colleague Irfan Muhammad, known for his cool temperament in stressful situations, says, “Some are used to driving on the left and expect the left turns to be free. Others are used to being aggressive and don’t give-way easily. Some others come from very loud cultures and aren’t afraid to express their discontent.”
Regardless of where you come from, however, one thing stays the same. “Keep calm, drive on,” says Sampath Priyadarsha. Once you’ve mastered the local rules, a calm driver is always better than an aggressive one.
Too slow is as bad as too fast
For many people behind the wheel, the fable of the tortoise and the hare is the one to live by. Equating slow and steady with safe and reliable, they amble along at 40 kph in the fast lane.
Most roads, particularly highways, are tagged with both minimum and maximum speed limits. So if the maximum speed of the road is 120 kph and the minimum is 60 kph, motorists are advised by the traffic police to stick to the lane on the extreme right if they want to drive at the slowest limit. “The lane on the extreme left is considered the passing lane, to be used for overtaking, not as the rightful lane for those traveling at the upper speed limit,” says Shoaib Ahmed, who specializes in long, strenuous drives. “Being too slow while driving in the left-lane also puts you at risk of being exposed to another drivers’ more aggressive intimidation tactics, which may cause you to make a mistake.”
Don’t try and make a point
Road users are often encouraged to report rash driving by the stickers asking you to call a certain number if the driver is not doing his job well. That is the full limit to which someone else’s driving is your business. If someone chooses to hurtle past you at 200 kph, just get out of the way.
You can actually be fined for not giving way for vehicles to pass on the left, or for blocking traffic flow. The police maintain that the fast lane is for emergencies and you could be blocking someone who may want to get to the hospital double-quick. “The road belongs to everyone and everyone is different. If more people understood this, there will be fewer accidents due to rash behavior,” says Irfan.
Don’t honk or flash
In some places around the world with chaotic traffic, honking is almost a ritual and tailgating (sticking your car’s bumper right up to the rear bumper of the car ahead of you) is normal. Drivers feel happy to give the person in front of them a friendly nudge to get them moving. Don’t. Just don’t. Be patient. Honking or flashing your headlights because the driver in front of you is a little slower than you’d like when the light turns green is the equivalent cursing at them. Not cool.
If you aren’t out to correct everyone’s driving mistakes, you’ll rarely flash, honk or tailgate. “It’s a bad habit,” says Usman Mohammed, one of Carlease’s most efficient backroad navigators. “If you find yourself honking a lot or flashing the other drivers all the time, you’re the one who needs help, not them.”
Don’t be vocally aggressive
The Dubai Police discourage aggressive driving. Among the list of things categorized as “aggressive” are: Making angry faces at other drivers, flashing headlights, honking unnecessarily, yelling at other drivers, and making angry gestures.
Don’t drive aggressively
Courtesy goes a long way on the roads, as it does everywhere. While there is little police presence on UAE roads, drivers are expected to be courteous and the police are very careful in apportioning blame where it belongs. Aggressive driving behavior includes: Not giving way to those who have right of passage, deliberately not co-operating with others on the road, not using indicator lights when changing lanes or turning, changing lanes frequently and improperly, overtaking on the hard shoulder, exceeding speed limits, ignoring stop signs and jumping red lights. “Remember that it is your obligation as a driver to not be rash and to warn other driver’s before you do what you’re about to do,” says Ramcy.
Most of the roads in the UAE are a joy to drive on. Zipping along the highway at top speed sounds like a great recipe for fun.
Says Ramcy, who often volunteers to test drive all new models, “But speed limits are there for a reason. If the speed limit on a new flyover is set at 40 kph, it is because there is a sharp turn that you may not have foreseen. Similarly, highways connecting various emirates have speed limits keeping in mind traffic density. If you feel the need for speed, take your sports car (or Toyota Corolla) to the autodrome and gas it to your heart’s content.”
With the preponderance of incredibly high-tech speeding cameras around the UAE, speeding is also an expensive habit. “The cameras the authorities install these days are so advanced, there is almost no chance of not being caught. I regularly see customers whose traffic-fine bills are higher than the cost of their rental– what a waste of money!” says Sampath.
What more advice? Check out our guide to driving the UAE for Expats and Tourists.
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