Published: December 19th 2007December 11th 2007
There are currently two road bridges connecting Abu Dhabi Island to the mainland UAE. Maqta Bridge is on the site if the original crossing point at the North of the channel where up until the early 60's you had to wait until low tide before taking your camel or Land Rover across. about two clicks to the South is the newer Musaffah Bridge (officially called the Al Ain Bridge but nobody calls it that). A third bridge just to the North of the Maqta Bridge is under construction but has been on hold for over two years now for reasons unknown to me.
Both bridges are five lanes in each direction, and have 80kmh (50mph) speed limits on them. Maqta Bridge is actually two sperate bridges, each with a steel "suspension" style structure over it, whereas Musaffah is plain and has a solid concrete barrier about 3 feet high dividing the carriageways.
The other week the slipway from the Tarif road onto the Musaffah bridge was blocked by Police, which meant all of the traffic was directed over Maqta Bridge, and although if everyone adopted a "let one person in" policy the traffic would flow quite well, the general
consensus was to the "push in/drive up the hard shoulders/change lane" way of thinking. The subsequent chaos and shunts that ensued meant that it took me an hour and a half to do my 25 minute drive home.
Obviously, my inconvenience and that of my fellow road users that evening is nothing compared to the grief of the family and friends of the 5 people who were killed. Apparently a car hit the Nissan Patrol which then lost control sending it over the barrier and into oncoming traffic on the other side of the road. I don't know how fast you have to be going to gett over a three foot conrete barrier, but I suspect it is a bit more than 50.
This "traffic collision" was widely reported in the press, and every single report cited an "Asian" as responsible for the tragedy of the locals being killed. No mention was made of the excessive speed of 99% of the traffic or the fact that use of seatbelts is perfunctory. Anyone who has spent a day here will testify that it is common to see kids standing up on seats, mothers holding babies in their arms in
the front seat with a toddler standing in the foot well, even sitting on the driver's lap. Of course, you can only observe this when the windows are not 100% tinted out (the maximum allowed limit is 30%)
So what is the major enforcement of traffic rules once you get out of town? Speed cameras. Possibly the most useless form of traffic control ever. All a speed camera does is nick you if you are going over a certain speed. It does not nick you if you are swerving all over the road, it does not nick you if you are drunk it does . 120kmh may be perfectly safe on a given stretch of road, but in heavy fog or rain it would be lethal.
I'm not going to go off on one of my usual rants about how switching from effective traffic policing to relying on speed cameras has reversed the downward trend of road deaths in the UK from the 1990s in the UK. The fact that the British government earned over 120 million pounds from speed cameras last year way be unrelated to the policy of cutting police on the street and replacing them
with cameras. There is plenty if information available on the net, government stats, groups campaigning for banning camers, etc... The government even admits that the they severely overplayed the role of excessive speed in justifying cameras by a factor of eight.
Either way, you can compare two entirely different traffic models that have embraced speed cameras and and see that neither of them stop speeding or save lives.