A careless moment, a shattered life

Musabh al Romaithi knows how other peoples' driving can ruin lives. A crash left him paralysed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair.

ABU DHABI // Musabh al Romaithi knows how other peoples' driving can ruin lives. Seven years ago, he was the victim of a crash caused by a reckless driver racing on Al Mafraq bridge. The crash left him paralysed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. He hopes his story will serve as a warning and drive home the message of the slogan "Beware of others' faults" being used by police for GCC Traffic Week.

Before the accident, Mr al Romaithi, 33, was a Hawk missile operator in the Armed Forces. Now he is divorced, retired from the military, and suffers paraplegia, a type of paralysis caused by a spinal injury. "I was driving back from Bani Yas to Al Wathba Military City. At Al Mafraq bridge two young men were racing and one of them crashed into my car from the back, and this was the result," he said, taking off his cap to reveal deep scars on his head.

"My friend was supposed to ride with me, and at the last minute he changed his mind. Thank God he wasn't with me because the passenger's side was completely crashed and destroyed." Mr al Romaithi was thrown from the car and hit his head and spine. In an unusual twist, police told him that he would have died if he had been wearing a seat belt. "The police officer who was at my accident told me if I did not fly out of the car, they would have found me as a dead body, because the car flipped over several times and caught fire. I was lucky I forgot to wear my seat belt that day."

The driver who crashed into his car died in the accident. Mr al Romaithi said he does not remember the car that hit him. "After the crash I was completely unconscious for five weeks, then I was sent to Germany for two years for treatment." His wife asked for a divorce after the crash. "We were only married by paper, and after the accident she said she could not continue with me, she did not want to wait for me to recover."

Mr al Romaithi said he hopes to get married one day, and has a line on a new job. "I am retired and disabled, but I hope to find a woman who will agree to marry me. "My friend found me a job at the Abu Dhabi airport's passenger's service. I hope to start there soon." He admitted that before crash, he was not the safest of drivers himself. "I used to receive tickets all the time, and I was involved in three accidents before, but none of them resulted in injuries.

"What I admire about the traffic police, is that they introduced the black points system. If this system was there before my crash I wouldn't have been driving then, because my license would have been confiscated." Yesterday, at the opening ceremony of GCC Traffic Week in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati was honoured for not receiving any tickets since he became a driver under the special-needs category four years ago.

Since he was a child, Mr al Romaithi said, he has been a fast learner with a passion for new subjects. "When I was in school, I used to go to India for the summer vacation because my mother is Indian, and I used to enrol in English courses, and study the normal subjects that I take in school in Arabic, such as maths, science, etc in English." His eagerness to learn and develop continued after he lost the ability to walk.

"When I was at the hospital in Germany, I did not imagine I would start driving again and that I wwould live a normal life. "But when I came back here and made friends with other disabled people who were driving cars and leading normal lives, I thought I can be like them." When he started driving his modified car, Mr al Romaithi was always assisted by his uncle, Sheikh Ismail. "After practice, now I can drive and can get in and out of the car on my own," he said.