Deputy editor James ponders tailgating in the Middle East after a close encounter in the fast lane.
I’ve been thinking a lot about safety this past week, following my thoughts on driver aids and an incident which proved rather too close for comfort in the long term ATS. News that veteran motorbiker Bobby Goodin recently lost his life on the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb has simply added to this, but safety during competition is another matter entirely. No, my latest musing follows a drive home from C&P GHQ a couple of nights ago through Dubai’s increasingly chaotic rush hour.
As is fast becoming the norm, many of my fellow motorists opted against such trifling matters like indicators and mirrors, and one could imagine that a collision – someone along this 120+kph stretch of highway – was imminent. This thought was further emphasised when, from out of nowhere and despite it having been dark for an hour at least, a set of headlights flashed in my rear-view mirror. This, in and of itself, is nothing unusual: many of you reading this piece will be all too familiar with the ‘get out of my way, I’m more important than you’ attitude indicative of the fast lane and (usually) large SUV drivers. What did surprise me though was that this particular driver had no headlights on at all, and coupled with his tinted windows, I find it difficult to imagine my new friend could see anything at all.
Incapable of moving out of his way – given the wall of slower traffic to my right and the queue of cars ahead – I maintained position, much to Mr SUV’s annoyance, and it wasn’t long before he set up shop two or three inches from my rear bumper, headlights still flashing. When a gap finally emerged, I gladly moved aside, Mr SUV shaving just one layer of paint off my rear bumper on his way past.
My first thought was irritation at this quite ludicrous show of ignorance: whilst our ‘learned’ friend would have walked away from a collision unscathed, chances are I’d still be on the hard shoulder looking for my spleen. My second was that, owing to a new initiative from the Dubai traffic police, this incident – though not of my own doing – could have cost me $50.
On the surface, there’s validity to this new regulation. If someone is tailgating you, get yourself out of harm’s way by simply moving aside or risk points on your licence. Simple and effective. And flawed.
Why should ignorance be rewarded on the roads? Those who deem it necessary to sit less than half a car’s length behind the car in front, seemingly oblivious to the risks this entails (and I’m talking death here, not just serious injury), are suddenly given a green light to continue this behaviour, all too aware that the person in front – under this potential directive – will from henceforth be ‘in the wrong’. Why? Why should this kind of behaviour suddenly entail a grey area? Who does this benefit?
We are none of us perfect, as several speeding tickets and a near collision of my own making should attest. And whilst I applaud the attitude that seeks to limit the number of accidents on the road, I’m not sold by this quick fix. I doubt it holds the answer to ignorance and impatience – as Mr SUV demonstrated so succinctly – on our roads.
All thoughts and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author concerned and do not necessarily reflect the views held by www.crankandpiston.com.