UAE has a positive driving culture? Yes, but no…

By Eudore R. Chand

DUBAI 12 April 2018: A study on the question: ‘Does the UAE have a positive driving culture?’ – found people saying “yes”… but thr study authors believe that may be a “hollow” and “superficial” assumption.

Frederik Bisbjerg, Executive Vice-President Retail i-Insured states: “This question is passionately discussed among UAE residents and for sure there are plenty of subjective opinions.”

Summarizing the findings, Thomas Edelmann, Managing Director of RoadSafetyUAE shares his opinion: “While the big majority states ‘yes’ we do have a safe and caring road culture, we believe this is a bit of a superficial and hollow statement.

“When digging deeper, the same respondents lament to the largest part that other motorists do not show a caring attitude, seemingly based on not understanding the ingredients of a safe driving culture, and they can list the biggest causes of non-caring and hence reckless driving, as well as the reasons for it.

“The UAE wants to further lower accidents, injuries and fatalities, and we have to overcome the feeling that ‘everything is in order’ and we must continue to educating road users about the proper ingredients of a positive driving culture and how to implement it on a daily basis,” he said.

Yes, Yes, Yes

Surprisingly, the top-line answer is 72 per cent ‘yes’ we do have a positive UAE driving culture! This value is even higher (82 per cent) with expat Arabs. However Westerners have a strongly contrasting view: only 40 per cent state ‘yes’ and 60 per cent ‘no’.

This illustrates the paradox of the UAE situation with regards to road safety: based on the ethnic backgrounds and the previous driving experiences vastly gained outside the UAE, the assessment of the overall UAE driving culture varies widely.

Among the biggest ethnic demographics (‘Asians’, ‘Arabs’) the perception is very positive, but it must be stated, that this perception can be seen problematic as it might deter further road safety improvements.

Some 90 per cent think, that we ourselves are ‘polite and caring’ drivers. However, only 34 per cent think that other drivers earn the same label! Interesting to see again the divide between Asians (39 per cent) and Westerners (21 per cent) in the assessment of other drivers.

Giving Way

To bring this high-level assessment to live, we surveyed the opinion related to some concrete examples, like ‘How often do you give way to others’: 65 per cent of us claim ‘always/very often’. However, when asked ‘How often do others give way to you’, this value drops to 32 per cent. Like often in research, we have a tendency to rate our own behavior more positively than the one of others and we believe the ‘true’ situation is rather related to the behavior we see from others!

Another example selected is ‘How often do others thank you when you give way or perform another friendly act’? In total, 39 per cent state ‘always/very often’, but only 5 per cent of Westerners! Which begs the question, what is the proper way to say ‘thank-you’ on UAE’s roads? Raising the right hand like Westerners are used to might be viewed differently by other demographic groups, where hand signs can be interpreted very differently. If a little nod of the head is the right way for Asians/Arabs, this might not even be seen by Westerners, and this might explain the very low 5 per cent?

Bisbjerg adds: “In order to potentially improve the situation by carving out concrete action points, it was very important for us to get a better understanding about ‘The most unfriendly acts’ we experience on the roads, as well as the reasons behind these unfriendly and dangerous acts.”.

It is interesting to see, that the top most unfriendly acts correlate with the main causes of death on our roads! Even more important is the insight into the causes behind these unfriendly acts: once again and as uncovered in some of our earlier studies, ‘Time pressure – Running late’ is the main culprit for misbehavior and reckless driving! We repeat ourselves by stating that we need a strong education and awareness push towards proper time management. We must leave early and plan for possible delays on our routes!

In addition, the lack of knowledge about polite and caring behavior is lamented by respondents, coupled with the believe of low education in this regard. Deliberate acts (37 per cent) and the anonymity in our vehicles (36 per cent) also score high.

• Surprisingly high ‘yes’ values, but strong contrasts among ethnical groups
• Big difference between own behavior and the observed behavior of other motorists
• Ranking of the top most unfriendly acts correlates with the main causes of death
• Rationale for unfriendly acts is grounded in time running late, as well as lack of understanding and education

Note: The study was commissioned by i-Insured and RoadSafetyUAE and was conducted by YouGov in February 2018, based on the views of a representative sample of 1,004 UAE residents.