Experts explain importance of using overtaking lanes correctly to UAE drivers

Safety experts warn against holding a position near the central reservation when a speeding car comes up from behind.

Motorists have been told to use overtaking lanes for just that and not to hog the so-called 'fast lane'. Ravindranath K / The National
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ABU DHABI // While driving in the left-hand lane near the central reservation, do you move aside for faster cars, or do you hold your position?

Many drivers are guilty of the latter, resulting in dangerous lane-changing and tailgating on the passing or overtaking lane, or what is colloquially referred to as the “fast” lane, experts say.

“If you see a faster-moving vehicle approaching from behind and you can move over to the right, then do so,” said Robert Hodges, chief operating officer of Emirates Driving Institute in Dubai.

“The basic principle of ‘move to the next available slower lane to your right whenever approached by a faster-moving vehicle from behind, irrespective of which lane and what speed you are driving’ should be understood by every driver.”

Hogging the fast lane, repeatedly changing lanes and poor lane discipline are common, thoughtless behaviours on the motorways, said Khaled Al Mansoori, acting chief executive at the Emirates Driving Company in Abu Dhabi.

“The left lane is for overtaking and once you have overtaken a vehicle, you should return to the right lane as soon as it is safe to do so,” he said. “The left lane is not meant to be used as a ‘fast’ lane.”

Drivers should not stay in an overtaking lane longer than it takes them to move out. They should overtake, move in again safely and always check their mirrors so they are aware of the relative speeds of vehicles in front and behind them, Mr Al Mansoori added.

“It is common to see a vehicle passing on the right, tailgating a driver who is going the speed limit or even slightly over the limit, or passing vehicles by driving to the shoulder,” said Glenn Havinoviski, a transport expert in Abu Dhabi.

“The common technique of trying to force a driver out of a lane through tailgating and then passing on the left shoulder can cause many accidents, especially if there is no room for the cars to move to the right due to the traffic volume.”

In the first eight months of the year, sudden swerving was the leading factor in road fatalities in the country, responsible for 113 of the 463 deaths. Other causes included speeding, failing to comply with lane rules and tailgating.

“Many drivers do not look or plan ahead and often we witness sudden deviation and swerving, which in Abu Dhabi is a major contribution to vehicle collisions,” said Dino Kalivas, chairman of the driver education and training committee at the International Road Federation.

“It is vital that drivers think well ahead and make sure they are in the correct lane, or the nearest to the lane they wish to turn into.”

Overtaking on the right is illegal and against federal traffic law. It carries a Dh200 fine and three black points on the licence.

“It is extremely dangerous and doing so is often the factor responsible for the very common side-swipe accidents we have in the UAE,” Mr Hodges said.

Drivers place themselves and other road users at risk as they position their vehicles in places where other drivers do not anticipate being overtaken, Mr Kalivas said.

“This problem is also made worse as drivers attempting to overtake vehicles in front of them often find the left lanes are obstructed by vehicles,” he said. “Drivers then become aggressive and impatient when they are seeking to overtake.”