Thursday, 16 September 2010

Driving in the UAE

I bought a 4wd, a big Toyota Fortuna, to keep myself safe on the UAE roads. You see people drive fast here, too fast for the conditions at times. I like to speed up too when it's safe to do so but know my limits. Today I almost got caught out and it made me realise what a wise choice my 4wd was.

As the desert cools with the approaching winter here, there are shamals or sand storms and fog. Both can be lethal on the roads. It's early for the cooling to happen and I noticed that it was much cooler last evening. This morning the 45 minute trip to work was slowed by thick fog as I turned off the main road onto the road to Sweihan, out into the desert.

The fog was as thick as I've ever seen it, a total white out with very little visibility. I slowed then it seemed to disperse. As it did we passed some emergency vehicles with their lights flashing. That's odd I commented to my passenger. She agreed. I drove on a bit further, more cautiously, and saw why the emergency vehicles were on the road. There was a massive pile up of cars a nose to tail just in front of us. As this emerged from the fog, I slowed as quickly as I could, stopping just before the last wreck. There were others parked there watching, no one down the road slowing the oncoming traffic.

I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a 4wd looming out of the fog at speed. He saw the wreckage and slammed his brakes on, blowing his left front tyre and hitting the armco. We were so lucky he did or he would have hit us. At this point I realised that departing the scene was the wisest thing to do so, shaking, I drove around the wreckage and on my way. It was horrible, my passenger counted about 15 cars involved. We don't know how damaged the people were and may never find out.

The UAE has a poor safety record on the roads with a high road toll, surprising considering that most of the cars on the roads are newer, therefore safer, than many other countries. There are also truck roads that carry the majority of the trucking traffic and the roads are mostly of a higher standard than in the other countries in which I've driven. I suspect it's speed and driver error, two things that are hard to fix quickly.

Tomorrow I'm off again on that road. Tomorrow I'm leaving earlier, driving slower and if there's fog I'm stopping until I can drive on safely. Today's was a good lesson learnt, someone must have been watching over me. As the road signs say 'beware of road surprises'.

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