One of the paradoxes of life is the way the overarching sense of hospitality and friendliness that underpins social interactions in this country seem to disappear the instant many of us get behind the wheel. As we reported yesterday, driver attitude – as opposed to driver skill – is an underaddressed factor when it comes to making our roads safer.
All of us have seen examples of irresponsible driving – swerving from lane to lane, cutting people off, driving on the hard shoulder, and ignoring pedestrians – as identified by Phil Clarke, principal road safety consultant at Transport Research Laboratory UAE. As he correctly noted, having rigorous tests to ensure aspiring drivers can demonstrate high levels of skill counts for little if the driver then acts with frustration and impatience.
This country has a road network that most other countries look at with envy, but this might also be part of the problem. Having wide, smoothly paved roads increases capacity, which in turn increases average speeds and can lead to worse consequences in the event of an accident. An added irony of our excellent roads is that Abu Dhabi Municipality announced in July that over the next two years it will install speed bumps and other measures designed to slow traffic as a way to reduce speed-related accidents.
All this brings us back to a recurring theme about how best to improve safety on our roads. Although we have long argued on these pages that only a multifaceted approach will achieve this, one of the initiatives that needs to be bolstered is to have more patrol cars, both marked and unmarked, on our roads. We already have a robust and comprehensive automated system of speed cameras – but many drivers know where most of them are, and drive accordingly – which is why these passive systems need to be augmented by police patrolling, ready to pounce when drivers act in an irresponsible manner.
Just as all of us have felt endangered by inconsiderate drivers, there are precious few occasions when it was immediately followed by seeing a patrol car’s flashing lights and siren being activated, with the offending driver being pulled over and fined. If that were to happen more often, not only would it be gratifying for the rest of us but we would also expect that drivers’ attitudes would improve in short order. This is certainly not the complete answer, but it ought to be an important part of it.