Saturday, 19 January 2008

Let's Play Chicken

The main road in Dubai is the Sheikh Zayed Road, running north to south from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.  It runs the length of Dubai.  In some places it is 7 lanes on each side with an alleged speed limit of 100kph.  I was on this road yesterday and was astonished to see a taxi stopped by the side of the highway with about 5 Indians on the kerb - had they broken down?  No, the taxi had dropped them off and they were trying to CROSS THE ROAD!!

I honestly couldn't believe my eyes - the traffic was steady - there was no way on earth that these people could cross the road safely and realistically, there was no safe way for them to get to the other side, except for getting back in the cab, going to the next interchange and coming back the other way.  There are no foot-bridges here.

However, worse was to come.  I was told that if you hit a pedestrian who is trying to cross the road, you - the driver - is culpable.  The driver is expected to miss any pedestrians, regardless of whether that person is trying to cross the equivalent of a motorway . . . as well as concentrating on 7 lanes of highway where under-taking is the order of the day!  Now, in the UK, I think I am right in thinking that if you hit someone on a dual carriageway who frankly, shouldn't be stupid or deranged enough to be there in the first place, providing you're not drunk or speeding, you are not responsible.  Here, not only do you have to deal with the horror of ploughing someone down at a relatively high speed, but you are also flung in jail until you pay the deceased's family their blood money.  It really happens.

Bloody money is set at about AED200,000, which is about £28,000 to me and you.  I think that there are some car insurances that you buy which may include that as part of your premium, but certainly not all.  In addition to that, if you, the driver are at fault - perhaps going one kph over the speed limit or having had one drink - your insurance money wouldn't pay.  You are in jail until that money is found. 

I was trying to find the words to express my disbelief at this, but honestly, couldn't.  An eye for an eye - it could only happen here in the Middle East.

However, some reassuring news - Tim seems to think that he read somewhere in the paper last week that they were thinking of changing the law.    He thinks that drivers are now only responsible if they hit someone on a road which has a speed limit of less than 80kph.  Oh, that's all right then . . . . .

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