Road rage is useless in the UAE: the unspoken driving rules of each emirate

It's understanding each city's traffic that will help you deal with your own impatience

road rage. Getty Images

The road's full of them. The tailgater, blinding you with their strobing xenon lights. The thoughtless acrobat, swerving three lanes without a signal. The languid creeper on the leftmost lane, eyes less on the road than on his phone. You're probably late for work or eager to return home. You get that tight feeling in your chest, you see red. You want to roll down your window, yell sense into people, and curse some patience into them. Don't give into it. You'll just become part of the problem. Easier said than done, I know.

We're all in this smoggy, motorist morass together. If they can't see that, your strained vocal cords and expressions of rage won't show them

I used to be full of road rage. In many ways, I still am. I still feel the surge of anger when somebody cuts me off. I have to fight the urge to lightly tap the brakes in response to a tailgater who can't seem to see there's a car in front of me and another to its side. Where are they trying to go? My brain fumes. How many minutes do they shave off their commute with their impatience? We're all in this smoggy, motorist morass together. If they can't see that, your strained vocal cords and expressions of rage won't show them.

I commute between Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah a lot for work. Assignments are strewn all over the UAE. Not that I’m complaining – being in the office for too long makes me jumpy, I’ll do circles in my swivel chair and annoy everyone on the news floor. Being out and about keeps me grounded and it’s something I love about my job, but being on the road so much can take its toll.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, January 9, 2020.  
Staff Portrai:  Razmig Bedirian
Victor Besa / The National

Every emirate has its own driving habits, I've noticed. It's understanding them that helps you deal with the road rage better. The light has turned green and before you've had a second to take your foot off the brake pedal, someone is already honking from a few cars behind you. You're likely in Abu Dhabi. You're probably tempted to roll down your window, plead for patience, but the traffic lights change colour so quickly there that the impatience could be excused. Lexus coming up behind you, flashing its lights? You might well be on the E11 to Dubai. Have sympathy: it's a long way back and forth, and they probably have their speed set on cruise control. In Sharjah, roundabouts are not round but follow a free-for-all orbit. Abrupt lane changes are not uncommon there, either. But it's important to remember that most who commute back and forth from the emirate are stuck in an average of 24 hours of traffic a week. That can short-circuit anyone's sense of camaraderie, so be the better person and remember we're all in this together.

As a university student, I’d often indulge the rage. I’ve rolled down my window and had shouting matches with other turbocharged drivers more times than I’d care to admit. One time, I was so busy fuming at a Patrol with a modified, grumbling exhaust that I didn’t notice the Camry in front of me had come to a stop, and bam, I was fender-deep in its rear.

Thankfully, it came to a quick resolution with a handshake and an apology. Even though I was in my late teens, it was still humiliating.

These days, I just drum on my steering wheel. I put on the right indicator and patiently wait to merge on to the right lane. The tailgater, careless acrobat or languid creeper can go wherever at whatever pace they'd like. The fact is, I've realised, you personally commit traffic offences when you indulge your road rage at other people doing the same.

It's simple: as your stress levels increase, you are prone to making some bad decisions. Soon enough, you'll be pulled into becoming the person you were raging against.