Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It *do* matter if they're black or white

You may remember that I've explained that driving in Dubai seems to be a pursuit mainly carried about by lunatics who are escaping from a hurricane.

Cutting up, undertaking, tailgating, non-existent lane discipline, jumping red lights, driving with your baby or small child sitting on your lap and many other idiotic driving behaviours seem to be not only accepted but positively encouraged by the transport authorities here.  So much so that I have been told that trainee drivers here are taught: "If someone is in front of you and you want to get past them, pull up behind them and flash your lights so that they will know you want them to get out of the way."  It makes driving a pretty daunting experience.  I know plenty of people who just don't bother at all, choosing to rely on taxis, buses and the Metro.  I tend to drive only when I know exactly where I'm going as the one way systems here were designed by the same lunatic that does most of the driving, or, if I have the chief navigator in the passenger seat.

There are speed cameras which are set to go off if you are doing 20km per hour above the speed limit. If you're involved in a crash, if no one's seriously injured, the decision about whose fault it is and whether you're given a penalty is usually decided at the road side by the police.  If you get given a green bit of paper, it's not your fault, if you get a pink bit, it is, and you usually have to pay a fine and get black points put on your licence which are similar to penalty points in the UK except it would appear that they stay on your record for ever rather than being wiped off after three years. You seem to be able to accrue a huge amount of these black points without losing your licence. I haven't worked out how many it is yet but it's safe to say I think the Sand Warlock and I are safe from ever losing our licences in this way.

So now, they're introducing white points which means that if you don't commit any traffic violations during the year, they go towards wiping off your black points.  This has been roundly hailed as ingenious by the authorities and condemned as assinine by road safety campaigners and residents alike.

I can't help but think that effort that went to thinking up this initiative, which lets face it will benefit bad, unsafe drivers who are on sabbatical from motoring lunacy, rather than people who habitually obey the traffic laws.

I hate to bang on about it but the driving really is genuinely insane in Dubai.  I'm getting used to it after four months here and can now be a passenger who keeps her eyes open during car journeys.  There's a saying on the You Know You're In Dubai Facebook page which states that You know you're in Dubai when you think: "Sorry I'm late, I crashed on the way here" is an every day excuse for turning up late for a meeting.  That genuinely is no exaggeration, such is the extent to which driving randomly and insanely is the expected norm here.

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