Driving in a large city with sprawling traffic can be a daunting experience for most people and requires adjustment in your driving style to deal with those conditions. Here are a few tips to understand how to drive safely in the UAE:

1. Distance

Try and follow the three-second rule for maintaining distance from other cars on the road. This will ensure you have space for speed adjustment and emergency breaks. People will often try and fit in the spaces that you are leaving for your safety, it is up to you to recreate that distance again.

2. Visibility

Headlights are important for visibility particularly during the night time but a lot of drivers believe that they can function well without turning them on. They forget the fact that headlights don’t just help them see the roads, they also assist other drivers to identify their presence. So, be aware of people driving without headlights and always double-check the road for any cars before picking up speed.

3. Speeding

While this is an obvious rule for safety on the road, most people in the UAE with fast sports cars tend to ignore this. While you should always follow the speed limit, try to let speeding cars pass by you or let them move around you. This will ensure your safety at the very least.

4. Undertaking

While it is illegal to do this in the UAE, there will always be some people who are habitual of overtaking, so always check your blind spots and side mirrors when changing lanes or pulling into a slip road.

5. Headlight Flashing

This may perhaps be one of the most irritating habits that drivers on the roads of the UAE have. They are usually impatient people who are warning you to get out of their way so that they can speed by. It is usually a good idea to move out of their way if it is feasible for you to do so.

6. Indicators

The use of indicators on the UAE roads is rather confusing. People will often turn indicators on when they have no intention of turning or moving and sometimes, they will spontaneously turn without any indicators at all. Driving in the UAE is all about vigilance and continuously checking your rear-view and side-view mirrors.

7. Lane Discipline

It is recommended that you keep to the left hand of a lane and do not unnecessarily change lanes if there is no need for it. If you do need to change lanes, ensure the following; check and re-check your mirrors to ensure you have a sizable distance between you and the next car. Also, be wary of other merging lanes when driving. Some drivers do not give proper indications before doing so, and these kinds of actions cause accidents. 

Moreover, be aware of the speed limits in the lane you are driving. Do not travel at 60 plus in a “slow” lane and do not disrupt the traffic flow by going at 50 in the “fast” lane. Doing this can get you fined by Dubai Police. 

8. Trucks

It is generally a good strategy to stay as far away from them as you can. They are loud, have blowouts of smoke and generally do not easily realize if you are traveling alongside or behind them. It takes them ages to stop and it is in your good interest to avoid them.

Cutting in front of a truck is also not a good idea. If you do so and there is traffic up ahead, trucks take longer to slow down due to their weight. Whatever you do, do not brake suddenly in front of a truck as it can cause serious accidents. 

9. Weather

Considering the rare amount of times the UAE gets foggy or rainy weather conditions, most people are uncertain about how to respond. The safest of option in these types of conditions is to generally pull-over and wait it out. Since most cars in the UAE are of Gulf specs, they rarely have hazard lights or fog lights, which is unhelpful. If you need to keep driving, drive as slow as possible, stay in the slow lane and pull over if visibility gets extremely terrible, for example in case of sand storms. Avoid driving on wet and slippery surfaces.

10. Road Hazards

Camels and goats are one of the most frequent road hazards that you would have to deal with. Avoid a collision with these as it can lead to a potentially fatal accident for you and the poor animal. Maneuver around them or wait for them to pass by. Another road hazard to be aware of is the load on trucks. At certain times, the load may fall on to the road and prove extremely damaging if it collides with your car. That is why it is generally safer to travel at a respectable distance from vehicles that are carrying large loads.

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11. Hand Gestures

While this may seem like a funny tip for driving safely, keep in mind that many hand gestures that are acceptable in other parts of the world such as the US and UK are considered highly offensive and disrespectful in the UAE. The same rule applies to swearing while behind the wheel, it is recommended that you do not do it at all. It can lead to severe consequences where you could end up being fined or even imprisoned for what seems like a minor offense.

12. Practice

While it is generally unsafe to take a car on the road if you are not an expert driver, it can prove particularly harmful in the dense traffic of the UAE roads. It’s normally a good idea to perfect your driving skills by practicing at times when roads tend to be quiet. This would save you and those around you a lot of trouble and potential accidents.

13. Learn the routes

It is usually easier to drive on roads that you are familiar with and understand the traffic density. Knowing your routes gives you confidence and calmness to drive with complete concentration without fretting over getting lost or going the wrong way. Understanding your routes will also familiarize you with the traffic patterns of certain areas and you can adjust your speed, driving style and vigilance accordingly.

14. Seat Belt

While this might seem like a lesson from childhood, wearing a seat belt is one of the most important safety tips on the roads of the UAE, as there are always situations that require one to suddenly apply the brakes. Statistics have shown that people wearing seat belts have a lower risk of injuries if involved in a car accident, as opposed to those who do not. Make sure that not only you as a driver but all the passengers in your car follow this rule as well.

15. Fast Lane Driving

You have to drive fast if you wish to be in the fast lane. This is as simple as that. In case you are unaware, the left-most lane on any UAE road is the fastest one. Slow drivers should avoid driving in the fast lane, as it is designated for the cars traveling at the maximum speed limit. Give way to cars that are faster than you if you are in the fast lane and drive safely.

16. Hazard Lights

If you wish to drive safely, the appropriate use of hazard lights is a must. They are there to warn motorists behind you of any hazard ahead. The following drivers will get a clear signal via the hazard lights to adjust their speed accordingly. Otherwise, you run the risk of an approaching vehicle ramming into your car at a high speed. Any malfunction of your car can also be communicated through the hazard lights. People often abuse hazard lights for not parking on the road properly. 

Using hazard lights during foggy or rainy weather is also not the right thing to do. Road users will be under the wrong impression of what’s going on ahead, causing more traffic. 

17. Pedestrian Crossing

No matter how urgent your situation is, you must always remain aware of the fact that pedestrians are top priority. Drive safely and respect the rights of pedestrians on the road. Halt the car and give way to the pedestrians stepping on to the pedestrian crossing. Violating this rule will be slapped with a fine of Dh500 and six black points. Stopping on the pedestrian crossing will also cost you Dh500 fine.

18. Driving on the Hard Shoulder

It is unsafe and inadvisable to drive or just stand on the hard shoulder with a flat tire. People often refuse to drive safely and take the hard shoulder even if they do not have a flat tire. This tends to happen more frequently during traffic jams. Hefty fines are imposed on the drivers getting caught using the hard shoulder, so it is better to be safe than sorry.

19. Roundabouts

You need to be extra careful and more focused to drive safely on roundabouts. Motorists tend to make flaunt and breach lane regulations while driving on roundabouts. The traffic from your left has the first right of passage at the roundabouts. Having said that, you must be extra vigilant for the traffic approaching from your right as the reaction time tends to be less and there are blind spots as well.

20. Impulsive Emotions

All of us have suffered from road rage at some point in time while driving. The key here is not to let your emotions get the better of you. Sometimes, we get frustrated by the reckless driving of others or often we are too stressed out to drive safely and calmly. Please bear in mind that most accidents occur due to the overboard emotional responses of the car drivers. You must remain cool and calculated while driving and should never react to the irrational behavior of the other drivers by persistent honking, overtaking or over speeding, etc. 

While these tips might seem like a lot of points to keep in mind when venturing out on to the roads of the UAE, there are two important things to bear in mind. First off, understand and follow all traffic rules and avoid those who break them. Secondly, keep calm while driving. Most hazards of driving can be avoided if one keeps a cool head and is vigilant while driving. It is up to you to ensure your safety.

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