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Musings on motoring experiences
December 2007 172

It was very foggy weather in Dubai and as usual I became frustrated with the many motorists using their hazard lights, which in my country are only used to indicate a stationary vehicle.

Although the Dubai Traffic Police has often warned drivers not to start blinking with both indicators, as soon as the fog descends, almost all motorists continue to ignore the cautions. So you had better hope that you never have a breakdown in the fog in Dubai, for your hazard lights will be ignored...your fellow drivers will think you are still moving.
This journey started me thinking of all the various habits of motorists from different countries, which I have experienced during my years of travelling.
Probably one of the scariest driving experiences is in a taxi in Cairo, where the cabbies somehow manage to avoid most accidents, yet are driving at a fair old clip only a few inches from the car in front.
You cannot help noticing the well-scraped bumpers on the cars, but amazingly there are not as many accidents as you would imagine.
The Brits in the UK tend to be good drivers, but are not very forgiving towards visitors. If they end up in the wrong lane, the urban commuters will blast their horns at hapless visitors and deliver threatening gestures as they try to find the correct road.
A surprising reaction really, for Britain attracts millions of visitors every day and many of them rent cars. Perhaps car rental companies should print huge stickers for the vehicles stating something like “Sorry; I am a tourist in your country, please forgive me!”
Talking of rental car companies, it baffles me that when I ask for my favourite type of car, the company often substitutes it for another quite unfamiliar type.
You are handed the key to the rental car after all the formalities have been completed, then pointed towards the car park in the airport area. No one bothers to show you the new controls, how to put on the lights or windscreen wipers... and suddenly you are trying to find the highway in a car you have never driven before in a strange country, now that is scary.
The Germans are good drivers. They are proud of their cars and driving skills, but beware of the autobahns! You might be motoring along at what you think is a reasonable speed. Then you may notice a dot in your side mirror. If so, move over quickly, for a budding Schumacher will soon hurtle past at 200 kms an hour. Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel, for when the after effects hit, it can be scary.
Japan surprising as I could not fathom why they drive on the left side of the road, having never been a British colony!
I love the jeepneys in Manila, even though they are quite uncomfortable “buses”.
Forget about cars and go by river in Bangkok. It is not cheap but is faster and much more exotic. Singapore drivers like the rest of their fellow citizens are very disciplined, paying extra fees to drive into the city centre.
Brazil’s cars run on ethanol and the fumes have a distinctive smell. Driving in Barbados is relaxing, especially if you hire one of their minimokes - topless jeeps.
I can understand why the Americans have their state emblems on their car number plates. It is after all a huge country. I try to comprehend the reason behind UK residents buying personalised number plates. But I am left completely baffled by the citizens of Dubai who pay millions of dirhams for a three digit number. The digits do no seem to be related to birthday year, sporting team or anything at all. I cannot even remember the number of my own car!
Happy motoring!
Speaking Out by Jonna Simon




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