“Dozens” of speed limit signs remained covered on the first day of the removal of the 20 kilometre per hour buffer in Abu Dhabi — creating confusion among motorists about how fast they can legally drive.
News of an end to the 20kph buffer on August 12 had been circulated widely over the past two weeks. But, on Sunday morning, many of the blue covers on the signs still remained.
One motorist, who lives in Dubai and commutes to Abu Dhabi daily for work, said signs she passed on Sheikh Zayed Road were still covered, where the speed limit was previously 120kph with an additional 20kph buffer.
“I didn’t see a single sign uncovered. There were a few signs on the right hand side saying maximum 140kph, but then I wasn’t sure if that was an old sign because they have been there for a long time,” she said.
“So I wasn’t sure what the new speed limit was, especially when you get to Shahama, because that’s where it changes. Everyone was driving pretty safely though. People were driving slower than usual because they didn’t know, I think.”
Another Dubai commuter said “dozens” of speed signs he passed were still covered.
Meanwhile, electronic notice boards for drivers continued to display warnings that, as of August 12, the displayed speed would be the "radar speed".
Jamal Samara, a Jordanian, 44, who commutes between Dubai and Abu Dhabi on a weekly basis said it was difficult to keep track of when the buffer is in place and where it has been removed.
“It will be hard to tell where to start paying attention to speed limits on Dubai-Abu Dhabi road. Drivers got used to driving on this road at 140kph speed without being clocked by a radar,” he said.
“Most drivers got used to driving at a high speed towards Abu Dhabi or Dubai. It will take them a long time to get used to the new rule."
Many drivers turned to social media for clarification, with one member of the Abu Dhabi Q&A Facebook page asking what the speed limit was on Khaleej Al Arabi.
Another member suggested following the speed limit on the old signs until the new ones are uncovered.
“Was really happy seeing all the drivers following the speed limit,” wrote another.
Nabeel, who lives in Abu Dhabi, said none of the new speed limit signs had been uncovered in Khalidyah and Khaleej Al Arabi.
“People were just slowing down to 100kph in front of the camera,” he said.
He saw just one new sign on his commute, on a small street behind Dalma Mall.
“The speed board used to say 30 [kph], that was replaced by 60 today, but that’s just a street. There are hardly any cars there,” he said.
According to some drivers, some speed limit had been changed on Sunday.
"I just drove down Airport Road. They are actually removing the old signs. There were no 80kph signs, just 100 signs. That will help with the confusion I think," wrote one Abu Dhabi Q&A Facebook member.
The removal of the speed buffer is designed to improve road safety, according to police.
Crashes on Sheikh Zayed Road, which links Abu Dhabi to Dubai, dropped by almost a third after the speed limit was reduced from 160kph to 140kph in 2011.
Also, a study by the UAE University found it had successfully reduced the variation in speed of the traffic.
Abu Dhabi Police has been contacted for comment.