Rules of the Road

Depending on your perspective, driving in Dubai can be divided into two categories: ‘drive it like you stole it’; or ‘driving Miss Daisy’ (the latter being hot on the bumper of the former but still not fast enough for the driver behind you who will more than likely order you to yield by flashing his headlights!) . 12 lane highways + up to 120KPH speed limits + high performance cars = not a surprise that driving can be such an hair raising, terrifying, sweat inducing experience.

To visit family and friends (as well as escape the sweltering, sweaty temperatures of Dubai’s summer), every year we set sail for the windswept shores of the Emerald Isle. As a ‘lifer’ expat, it’s difficult not to compare current life with former life. Once at home, I find myself comparing fruit and veg prices, petrol and water prices, rents and house prices. I even go so far as to check the Euro version of M&S price tags to see if the conversion rate is remotely similar to Dubai’s branches.

When I think about it now, I find it quite astonishing to see how I have adapted to Dubai’s driving and pedestrian etiquette. I seem to have adapted to such an extent that I have caught myself wondering what my hometown drivers are doing! In my two weeks at home, I have had to search the cobwebbed depths of my memory for the rules of the road:

– The black and white stripey, zebra crossing…..who actually ever stops at that? In Dubai, cars seem to always have the right of way. Afterall, who wants to mess with a hulking great 4 x 4????

– Why do drivers here not use their horns here????? Surely, all forms of dithering, deliberating and dawdling are deserving of a long, frustrated hoot, especially those who are so slow off the mark when the traffic lights turn green!

– Drivers observe the parking rules and instead of parking on single/double yellow lines and at bus stops. Preferring to avoid a nasty fine and/or black points, they search out the nearest paid parking zone.

– Drivers who yield in the desert (without being bullied into it) are as rare as raindrops in summer…at my first few encounters with examples of such considerate driving I felt unnerved, almost afraid to trust the good nature of other drivers.

– Numerous times a day I am forced to run the gauntlet that is the roundabout near my home in Dubai. ‘Already on the roundabout’ rule seems to have bypassed 99% of my fellow road users who often force those of us who are familiar with the rule, to slow to a standstill on the roundabout until they pass…..In Ireland, roundabouts are an ocean of dignified calm.

– By now it should be pretty obvious that many Dubai drivers think they are alone on the roads…so it will not come as a surprise to learn that, more often than not, acknowledging another driver’s positive road driving is not the done thing. Cue my surprise when yielding is, more often than not, met with a wave of gratitude.

When expats compare their lives with that of their home countries, we often come to the conclusion that it is like comparing apples with oranges; there is no point in even trying to draw comparisons. With so many different nationalities, backgrounds, standards of driving, driving experience, road network standards, rules and regulations, it is inevitable that all drivers will find something to complain about. In these circumstances the best we drivers can do is to be alert, aware and be safe.

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