On his travels to almost 100 countries, Barry Goldsmith, a creator of tours for General Tours, says he has worried about risks like terrorism, crime and infectious disease. But one trumps all the others.
"It’s traffic accidents," Mr. Goldsmith said.
Road accidents are "the largest cause of nonnatural death among U.S. citizens overseas," said Betsy L. Anderson, a senior consular official at the State Department.
I've had numerous people in the US tell me that we are "brave" to live here. But the only time that I feel unsafe is on the road here.
The driving here is, well, trying to be polite, exciting. Speed limits are regarded, except in the presence of a radar camera, as mild suggestions. Driving in your own lane is clearly optional, especially in roundabouts. I cannot remember how many cabbies have told me not to put on my seat belt because there are no police around. Stop signs are also regarded as mere decoration. A working horn is regarded as more important than the brakes or good tires.
To top it off, if you do drive sensibly (stop at stop signs, wait for a clear break in traffic to pull out, stop when pedestrians are in the road, not run yellow lights, pay attention to the lane direction markings, drive in your lane in roundabouts - this happened to me again today, etc.), you will only make your fellow drivers mad, which they will gladly demonstrate by honking at you.
By the way, I'm not singling out any nationality here, because pretty much everyone is terrible, just in different ways. Luckily I haven't had any friends die in accidents here - yet. But three times I have heard of friends of friends being killed, and when you remember just how small the Western expat community is here in Al Ain, that is a scary fact.
The really dumb thing about the aggressive driving is that it isn't even accomplishing anything. Following the traffic rules (for the most part, I do speed a little bit, like doing 70 kph in a 60 zone) there is no part of Al Ain that I cannot get to in more than 15 minutes. How much time could I possibly save by driving recklessly? Five minutes maybe? And the same is true on the highways. It only takes me an hour to an hour and a quarter to get to Dubai at 120 kph. How much time can you really save by driving foolishly? Is it worth risking your life and the lives of others to get where you are going a few minutes earlier?
I was glad (and a little surprised) to read that "Americans are among the most polite drivers in the world" though.