Navigating streets, dodging traffic

A screech and a high-speed collision — several cars piled up, broken shards of glass everywhere, pools of blood, people screaming in pain — sounds like ...

Sep 28, 2013

A screech and a high-speed collision — several cars piled up, broken shards of glass everywhere, pools of blood, people screaming in pain — sounds like just another unrealistic action movie. But these might not be as far-fetched as you think.
Residents of the UAE are 7 times more likely to die in a car accident than those in the United Kingdom. Road accidents are the second major cause of deaths in the UAE, and deaths due to car accidents have been increasing every year, with the exception of 2009 when deaths decreased by 10 percent.
“I hear about many fender-benders and accidents, especially on the road between Abu Dhabi and Dubai,” said senior Leah Reynolds. “I think it is really common here.”
As gasoline remains inexpensive, the number of cars on the street is increasing every year. These are worrisome facts, especially since the NYU Abu Dhabi student body is comprised of individuals from many different countries that have traffic laws different from those in Abu Dhabi.
Freshman Darwish Al Murar, a native of the UAE, said that the licensing exam involves both a theory test and a driving test.
“The theory test takes months to fit in with your appointments and timings, and if you miss one appointment, you’re doomed,” Al Murar added. “After that, as soon as you pass your theory test, with 36 marks [out of] 42, you advance into the driving test. Basically, you take training lessons; passing the test depends on how good the teacher is.”
One would expect drivers to be more thoughtful considering the rigorous licensing process in the country, which aims to encourage drivers to drive safely. However, road traffic has proven to be very dangerous in Abu Dhabi, particularly for those who are unfamiliar with the local norms.
“Traffic here is scary,” said freshman James Gardner. “People just don’t care about the pedestrians’ wellbeing.”
Freshman Vasko Lalkov also found the traffic unaccommodating for pedestrians.
“Most of the time, people don’t allow me to cross the street,” said Lalkov. “The wait can be quite frustrating.”
Navigating the streets and traffic laws can also be a challenge, even for those who have lived in Abu Dhabi for a while.
“It is a mess [and] there are some rules which people agree upon, but I'm not sure what those are yet,” said junior Bobby Haynes.
However, the situation is not as bad as it seems. The local authorities have taken up several initiatives such as the Students’ Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility campaign to create awareness about road safety amongst the local population. There are more street patrols to ensure traffic rules are being followed, and more pedestrian-friendly systems are being put into place to ease the burden for city-walkers.
Haynes added that he has become accustomed to Abu Dhabi traffic over time.
“It is my junior year, so I ... kind of ignore cars when I walk,” said Haynes. “I am definitely more confident on the streets now than I was in my freshman year.”
Mitali Banerji is a contributing writer. Email her at 
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