The seven unwritten rules of the UAE's roads: driver signals from the alternative highway code

We speak to Dubai Police about the signals motorists use on the motorway - and which ones could get you in trouble

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You might not know it - but you might've picked up a whole new language while living in the UAE. It's not overly difficult to learn - in fact, you might have picked it up in a matter of weeks. It relies mostly on visual cues and actually doesn't involve a single word. And you'll only learn it if you drive.

Yes, we're talking about that unspoken language of driving on the UAE's highways - and every gesture, action and unnecessary light flash that goes with it.

While you'll pick up fairly quickly on why that person behind you is high beaming you so furiously when you're going 80kph in the fast lane, there's a host of other light flashing, indicator flicking and tailgating that makes up this unspoken vernacular.

We spoke to motorists about what each of these gestures mean, and brought in the Dubai Police to find out whether they might actually get you in a lot of trouble.

 1. Flashing your headlights to force a vehicle to give way?

What motorists say: This is used, primarily when travelling in the fast lane, to tell a driver in front to get out of the way as they are driving too slowly. The number of and time between flashes depends on the urgency of the driver behind - read: aggression.

What Dubai Police say:  It is legal if it is meant as an alert to overtake another vehicle while maintaining a safe distance between the two vehicles, and overtake carefully.


Read more: Complete list of UAE traffic offences and penalties 


2. Leaving the right indicator on while driving in the fast lane

What motorists say: Sometimes this is used to indicate to a driver behind that you that you are intending to move out of the way. For instance, if someone has flashed their high beams at you to move, and you cannot, you can indicate right so they know you will move when it is safe to do so.

What Dubai Police say: There is no reason for leaving the right indicator on, and whoever does so will be fined for not giving way to other vehicles.

3. Leaving the left indicator on while driving in the fast lane

What motorists say: Some say this means that you have no intention of pulling over; others say it indicates an intent to move but it is unsafe to do so at that moment.

What Dubai Police say: It has no meaning in legal traffic procedures.


Read more: Abu Dhabi Police issue safety warning after horror crash


4. Indicating left or right once, then indicating left or right again

What motorists say: This might be a controversial one, as we've only really heard it from one person - but it is supposedly a retort to being flashed from behind in the fast lane and means, in it's politest iteration: "no, go away, I am not moving".

What Dubai Police say: It has no meaning in legal traffic procedures.

5. Applying the brakes when a car is following close behind

What motorists say: This is one reserved for only the most dangerous of motorists - swinging in front of another person, and pumping the brakes so you're very much aware they're angry you didn't move out of the way fast enough. While this is incredibly menacing anywhere in the world, it's even more perilous in the UAE where speed limits are often higher and the vast majority of motorists are used to roads in different countries. No matter how angry you are at the car travelling 20kph slower than the speed limit in front - this should never be practiced.

What Dubai Police say: If the practice is made intentionally, a fine will be issued, stating "driving dangerously in a manner that endangers others' lives".


Read more: Dh1,000 fine for rubbernecking introduced in UAE


6. Using your windscreen's water jets when someone is tailgating you.

What motorists say: While not as dangerous as pumping the brakes in front of someone, this is also used to inform someone travelling behind you that you're unhappy with their driving. The idea is that by hitting the water jets while travelling at high speed, the water will fly over your car and hit the windscreen of the one behind, causing them to slow down as they use their windscreen wipers to clear their windscreen. Again, this is risky behaviour - because if a driver has to slam on their brakes with little notice to clear their windscreen, and another car is travelling close behind them, this could cause an accident.

What Dubai Police say: It is an individual behaviour and has no meaning in the traffic law

7. Driving very close to the car in front, instead of using high beam.

What motorists say: This is another way drivers try to intimidate people to move out of the way - coming up from behind and tailgating the car in front until they relent and move.

What Dubai Police say: It is illegal, and a fine will be issued, stating "not leaving enough distance behind vehicles".


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