Some important comments today from the UAE Federal Traffic Council relating to the reduction of speed limits on the 311 and 611, two major roads that connect multiple emirates. The Council states that if statistics don’t show an increase in safety after a six month period has passed, the speed limit will return to 120km/h instead of the 110km/h the limit currently stands at. Anyone who has driven on either road at different times of the day knows that speed alone is not the problem.
To drive on one of the UAE’s major highways is dangerous. It is very sad to say but it is true. In the UAE there are some drivers who drive too aggressively and at the very upper limit allowed. These drivers, seemingly frustrated by someone in front of them going not quite fast enough, sometimes chose to undertake. Undertaking does not mean they simply move one lane over and drive past, it means in many cases that two or three lanes are dropped; so the car doing 139.9km/h is now in a lane with cars going considerably slower.
This is not to say that the faster driver is always at fault. Anyone who undertakes is at fault, but equally at fault as the fast driver is the slow one. On a six lane highway with a limit of 120km/h (140km/h), nobody has any business travelling slower than 110km/h in the second fast lane. But, we see it daily. So the problem is clearly not the speed but is lane discipline. The UAE’s drivers don’t know what lane to chose.
In an ideal situation we could drive in the third lane and if we chose to move down a lane we’d only have to check one mirror. The sad reality is that if we want to move down one lane we have to check all three mirrors as someone may be crossing lanes at high speed to undertake another car. It is very unpredictable. In addition to this, if we drive in the third lane at 100km/h we should be confident that there are no cars in the first and second lanes driving faster than we are, and that all cars in the upper lanes are. There should be an expectation that traffic in certain lanes moves at a certain speed. In the UAE, unfortunately, it’s sometimes a free-for-all.
When these roads are not busy it is usual to see cars in the second-fast lane being undertaken by cars two lanes down. It’s not an manoeuvre to get past the car, it’s simply that the car in the slower lane is going faster (maybe they have just entered via a junction…or are sensibly picking the right lane). In this situation the car in the second-fast lane should realise that it is in the wrong lane and move across. But rarely do they. Drivers that cause undertaking by going to slow appear to lack the correct presence of mind.
Unfortunately for driving standards, the UAE’s population is varied with tests having been passed in multiple countries. The driving skill of someone used to the Autobahn in Germany is very different to that of an inner-city Bangkok driver. We weren’t all taught the same way, our experiences haven’t been the same. Penalising poor lane discipline might be one way to get the message across to those who feel speed is the only offence. Creating order out of chaos, so to speak.