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Driving isn’t a right, it’s a privilege; so slow down and show some respect

There are motorists here who drive badly, who don’t seem to care when they’re fined

Peter Harrison

Published: Updated:

Earlier this week there was a 25-car pile-up on the Al Ain-Abu Dhabi highway in the UAE. The police say drivers were not taking the necessary precautions for the foggy conditions. Thankfully on this occasion no one was killed.

But the first half of the year saw an increase in road deaths in the UAE, largely because people were speeding, swerving between lanes, tailgating, using mobile phones, or behaving in some other absurd fashion.

I still find it quite shocking how aggressive so many motorists are in this part of the world. It’s not just the UAE – I’ve been in several countries in the region and found conditions are also not the greatest.

It’s not as if the authorities aren’t acting. In the UAE the government and police are taking numerous steps to try and combat the menace of dangerous driving. The technology being introduced onto the roads should definitely go some way to help control this serious problem. But there seems to be little impact with fines.

There are motorists here who drive badly, who don’t seem to care when they’re fined – it’s almost like they wear the ticket as a badge of honor.

Driving is not a ‘right’

Driving is seen by many as a “right”, it is not. You earn the privilege to drive by passing a test. You are granted a license on a number of conditions and if you breach those conditions you are penalized.

In some countries people who repeatedly drive dangerously eventually lose their license for several years, and in some cases their cars are impounded and even crushed. May be if a few of these people’s top end sports cars, SUVs or monster trucks were crushed – then others might think twice before jeopardizing the lives of others around them.

Driving is seen by many as a “right”, it is not. You earn the privilege to drive by passing a test. You are granted a license on a number of conditions and if you breach those conditions you are penalized

Peter Harrison

In a recent survey conducted in the UAE motorists were asked if they signaled when turning or changing lanes, and if not why. The response was staggering – apparently many drivers said they believed using their indicators was a sign of weakness.

It seems to me that motorists here – the bad ones at least, the one’s that drive just a few feet behind the car in front, or swerve abruptly – those types – drive the way they do because they think it’s macho – may be even somehow turns them into “real men”.

But real men don’t put other people’s lives in danger. Real men are decent, honorable people who are gracious and don’t like to intimidate others. Real men are the people who don’t need to prove themselves by driving like fools, without any consideration for anyone around them.

Risking your child’s life

And it’s not just aggressive driving that makes my blood boil. What are parents thinking who buckle themselves in with the seatbelt, but then leave their children to roam freely inside their moving vehicles?

I find it extraordinary when I see an adult sitting in the front passenger seat, with a child either on their lap, or standing in the front foot well. The other day I even saw a small girl leaning out of the rear passenger seat window of an SUV - clearly not buckled in.

Do these people not understand the danger they place their child in? Do they not understand that when a vehicle traveling at 100 kmph stops suddenly, everything inside that vehicle that’s not held down will keep moving forward at 100 kmph? Have they not seen the bloody mess left behind by a human body when it hits something at that speed?

I understand the thrill of driving quickly – I really do. I understand that when you’re in a car that growls when you put your foot on the throttle there’s a buzz. But I’m not convinced that this thrill is worth the heartbreak and devastation caused by taking such terrible risks.

And if you think that traveling at 140 kmph will get you somewhere much quicker than 120 – then you’re wrong. You end up saving seconds, maybe a minute or two at the most – but you risk a fine, losing your license. But worst of all you risk harming others who had no say in the matter - what you do with your own life is up to you.

Let me leave you with this thought. According to the World Health Organization in 2013 there were 1.25 million road deaths around the world. Sure many of these were genuine accidents, some were terribly sad unavoidable incidents.

But if we all just slowed down a bit, put down our mobile phones, used our mirrors and indicated when moving, made sure everyone was buckled in and just were a bit more courteous, then maybe we could all help reduce this statistic by at least just a little bit.
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Peter Harrison is a British photojournalist whose career spans three decades, working for print, digital and broadcast media in the UK and the UAE. He's covered a broad spectrum of subjects, from health issues and farming in England, to the refugee crisis in Lebanon and the war in Afghanistan. He is a senior editor with Al Arabiya English and tweets @photopjharrison.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.