Image by Johnny Grim via Flickr
The tradition of scattering little pieces of glass all over the roads during Ramadan sadly seems set to continue this year. Driving past a smashed car on the Deira side of Business Bay bridge this morning, the driver apparently alive but nursing a nasty nosebleed, I was only surprised that it was the first major accident I have actually witnessed in the first days of this long, hot fast. I know it won't be the last - in fact, three people have already died on Dubai's roads in the first three days of Ramadan.
This Ramadan is a trial indeed - the Fajr prayer which commences the fast takes place at around 4.30am and Maghrib, the prayer that marks Iftar, the breaking of the fast, takes place at around 6.50pm - so people are fasting for something a little over fourteen hours a day. The fast means that nothing may pass your lips, so we're talking no eating, drinking (no, not even water) or smoking. When the ambient temperature's creeping into the mid forties (that's 110F to Americans), fourteen hours is long, long time. And it's debilitating - as the days pass, the cumulative effect on people's systems is plain to see.
A road full of tired, distracted and physically weakened drivers means that everyone has a huge additional duty of care - not only those fasting, but those who are not but who could give their fellow drivers a little more leeway than usual.
Dubai's Road and Transport Authority has launched an awareness campaign designed to highlight the extra care that drivers should take in Ramadan, which appears to consist of some leaflets (according to this story in Gulf News) and using the traffic information system displays. The need for these huge and no doubt expensive displays have long mystified me, although I'm sure I'm alone in thinking of them as Mostly Pointless. Everyone else no doubt likes the occasional aphorism, national day greeting and, very occasionally, advice that the traffic is slow - usually the only entertainment while waiting in the tailback stretching under the sign.
Today's message reads, in English, "Take care of other's fault" - and yes, I am so small-minded as to complain about the illiterate rendering of the message. Whether you should be exhorted to take care of others' faults or looking to take more care yourself is also worthy of debate.
But a few leaflets and a wonky message are simply not enough. Between the tolls and fees it raises, the RTA must surely have the resources to launch a serious public awareness campaign that could at least have a chance of alleviating this awful and totally avoidable carnage.
One component of it could be a concerted effort to create a strong moral climate condemning the fools putting others' lives at risk when they dash carelessly home for Iftar, seemingly convinced for some reason that they are rendered temporarily immune from the consequences of their selfishness.