ABU DHABI // Driving instructors say they feel powerless to curb reckless attitudes among young learners who are focused only on passing and then hitting the streets at high speed.
Tutors said a desire to show off among peers had become a widespread and worrying trend among some young people keen to pass their test with the minimum number of lessons.
Instructors and road safety experts revealed the trend after police this week reported that 45 per cent of accidents in the UAE last year were caused by drivers between ages 18 and 30. Last year, road deaths rose to 725 from 675 in 2015, reversing a previous downward trend.
“Most youngsters have the tendency to be a hero and try to be the fastest among their friends, which is a culture I have seen in most of my students,” said Mujeeb M, a driving instructor in Abu Dhabi.
“I hold my classes in Mussaffah and once a student got into the car and said his friend had driven him from the city in nine minutes. That is usually a 30-minute journey.
“They cut across lanes and drove on the hard shoulder. My student said he hoped to beat that time once he got his licence. I told him not to drive like that, but until the very end of our course that was the only thing that was running in his head, he had to beat the nine minutes.”
Syed Muqabil Shah, another instructor in Abu Dhabi, called it a struggle to instil good road manners and basic safety in some younger drivers.
“They follow rules until they have their licence. Once they can drive they do not follow any rules in practical life,” he said.
“I have had students tell me that they eventually ‘have to die one day’. In my experience it is mostly Arab children who tend to break the rules.”
Phil Clarke, a road safety consultant at the Transport Research Lab in Abu Dhabi, said there was a reckless culture among some young road users. With the abundance of high-powered vehicles and young people on fast roads it was difficult to manage the driving culture in the UAE compared with other countries.
“The driver can be technically proficient but if the attitude to driving is wrong – one that wants to be competitive, drive the fastest and always be in front – that adversely affects everyone’s safety.”
PM Abdul Razak, assistant manager at Emirates Driving Institute (EDI), the country’s largest driving school, said young people had to be shown the consequences of dangerous driving, including road crashes in simulators.
“This generation will understand better when shown something in a practical way. If we show them the consequences of what can happen, show them examples or put them in simulators, that is when they will understand the real danger behind their driving attitudes.”
While police continually reiterate safe driving messages, hard-hitting and at times gruesome road safety adverts shown to shock drivers in Europe are seldom seen in this region.
“We need to tell students about what has happened in previous accidents, what were the consequences and make them experience what would happen if they are not driving safely,” Mr Razak said.
At EDI, the school has a roll-over vehicle in which students are put in, buckled up and rolled. Accompanying them is a doll that is not buckled in. When the car rolls, the students experience the difference as the doll crashes around.
“Young people eagerly wait to get their licence to fulfil their fantasies of what they have seen in movies,” Mr Razak said. “What we need to do is show them what that will lead to.”