The tragic 10th anniversary of Fog Tuesday is looming. On March 11, 2008, four lives were lost and 350 people were injured when a series of collisions in foggy conditions caused a pile-up of 200 vehicles near Ghantoot. As a result, this week’s 44-car collision on the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid road was depressingly familiar. Thick fog pervades the UAE in the early months of every year. A decade on from the country’s worst single accident, the very same problems still persist. Ultimately the real hazard on this country’s busy highways is not the known quantity of predictable fog, but the reckless motorists who refuse to adjust their behaviour in its presence. Tuesday’s pile-up is the latest in a long list of collisions. It is unlikely to be the last.
Fog can quickly appear and dissipate in the UAE. The geography of Abu Dhabi – with its cold nights, moist air, clear skies and light winds – make it particularly susceptible. Dense fog is likely to resurface in the mornings for the next few days. With visibility dropping below 100 metres in some areas, disciplined and alert driving is imperative. And while most drivers have heeded instructions to drive carefully, too many have not, endangering those around them. Driving in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and other emirates is thorny at the best of times. With poor visibility, it can become lethal.
Since this weather is predictable, we should be ready for it. Police in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have already pressed drivers to reduce speed, stick to their lane and double their safe distance. Other steps can be taken. When weather requires it, drivers should pull over, in line with official advice. Obligatory fog lights would improve safety and limit the perilous use of hazard lights in tricky conditions. The decision this week to delay some flights from Abu Dhabi International amid increased risk was prudent; ultimately drivers should take similar precautions. If journeys are not essential, they should be postponed. Every year fog descends on the UAE, and every year careless drivers cause crashes. Legislation always helps, but ultimately it is motorists who must change their behaviour to prevent future accidents.