Air Bag: The annoyance of the bleeping speedometer

Like a screaming child aboard an aeroplane, so the speedometer's grating whine plague our lives. But when 120kph is not even the speed limit, is there a point?

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It's your worst nightmare. Well, okay, that might be stretching it, but it's pretty dismal, nonetheless.

You grab your seat on an aeroplane, eager to get going on your long-haul flight for a well-deserved and long-awaited holiday. Or, you sit down and get your eye mask ready; you've got an important business meeting in a few hours and you need to get some sleep on this red-eye flight and be fresh when you land.

The engines begin to spin, the plane taxis out onto the runway, and then it happens; over the whine of the jets, that baby being held by its mother in the row in front of you begins to scream. And the ear-splitting din doesn't stop.

Yes, I know; some of you out there with children will be quick to point out that it's not the little cherub's fault; that I should be ashamed of even referring to these tiny angels with anything but the utmost of love and adoration. But, hey, I paid good money for this seat (or some company did, anyway) so I have the right to complain.

It's the same as if I were to put down good money on a new car and had to put up with a noise just as grating, just as annoying and just as distracting. A noise much like that speed alarm that beeps after 120kph.

The alarms are all different, and some come on once and then stop while others stay on continuously until you drop down below 120; all are coupled with a flashing light on the instrument cluster. But every new car in the UAE is sold with the speed alarm; I've been told by a dealer here that it's part of the GCC spec, and that it's the law, intended to keep people below the speed limit.

The problem is, the speed limit is not 120kph, at least not in Abu Dhabi, and unofficially not in other emirates. The Abu Dhabi side of the road to Dubai has signs clearly marked with the speed limit as 140kph. And on other roads, such as Sheikh Zayed Road and the Al Ain-Dubai road, police officials have stated that the radar cameras will not go off below 140kph, making that the de facto speed of traffic.

So why all this infernal dinging at a lowly 120kph? The alarm certainly doesn't keep people from going above the magic number. At least, not a certain Motoring editor.

What it does do, though, is increase blood pressure and steam under the collar on the motorways, and that's never a good thing on an already stressful drive. In fact, it even damages hearing; to counteract the problem, I just turn up the stereo so I don't hear the alarm. But there's only so much booming AC/DC I can take before trickles of blood start to seep out of my ringing ears.

(At least the flashing warning light on the dash is easy to fix - all it takes is a strategically placed square of black electrical tape. I'm handy like that.)

Luckily, there is no shortage of auto shops and even car dealerships themselves who will gladly turn off or adjust the alarm so you won't be driven over the edge, so to speak, on the motorway. Which makes them easier to turn off than a screaming baby; but let's not forget the hire cars, taxis and many Motoring test cars that still have the alarms active, cars that continue to irritate even the most subdued and composed of drivers and passengers - and me. Why, there is even a Facebook page dedicated to hating the speed alarms, called, appropriately, I Hate Car's Speed Alarm. Maybe you can join the 55 people who "like" it.

What's that you say? Why not just slow down? You make it sound so very simple …