Monday, November 26, 2012

An Undertaking for the Anti-Overtakers

If you've lived here for awhile, it can be easy to become disillusioned and feel like you could never contribute to any kind of change.  It can seem that no one is interested in what expats have to say, despite being the majority of the population.  And feeling this way would be spot-on with reality.

So imagine how startled you'd be to discover that the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) has created an online traffic survey.  An ONLINE TRAFFIC SURVEY.  Do you know what this means?  It means that instead of having to resort to muttering obscenities and secretly flipping other drivers the bird below the level of your windshield, you could actually air all of your grievances to an administrative body that could do something about them.  Now that's progress!

This survey was far more thorough than anything in my wildest dreams.  OK, I don't actually dream about surveys, but if I did, most of them would suck, and this one would exceed expectations.    It has several questions, with drop-down menus to list your top three complaints on any of the subjects, and then a box to type in everything that you see as wrong with the driving scene in Doha. Someone at MOI actually seemed to care what I had to say.  It was touching.  So I let 'er rip.

Coincidentally, this past week our compound launched a "Safe Driving Awareness Campaign".  The kick-off event on the first Saturday involved a safety presentation for families, and some driving games for kids designed to help them understand the importance of playing safely on our compound streets.  This past Saturday, on the final day of the campaign, the MOI was invited to come and give a talk to teenagers and adults about road safety.

I couldn't help but ponder the irony of giving a talk to a group of people who all work for oil companies that have their own very stringent safety programs, and as a whole are probably some of the most conscientious drivers in the city. Talk about preaching to the converted.  But I was curious to hear about all the wonderful new initiatives that would be launched as a direct consequence of my own personal and very detailed contribution to the online traffic survey.  Call me an optimist.  Or a narcissistic, dreamy idealist. Whichever you prefer.

To my delight, the officials at the safety session brought up my two most favourite driving moves in the city.  About a month or two ago, the MOI announced that they would start ticketing drivers for "Overtaking on the Right".  At the time, I was elated to hear this news.  Finally, something would be done about the maniacs who pass other vehicles on the right-hand shoulder while travelling at 120 km/hr, sometimes hitting cars and squashing any pedestrians who might be, say, on their way to their jobs to support their families, and have the misfortune of standing on two insufficiently human legs.  But during their little talk, the group from the MOI explained what "Overtaking on the Right" really means, with the aid of this helpful photo:

We've all seen this classy little manoeuvre, and it's not exclusive to Doha.  Ignoring the line of drivers patiently waiting in single file to go through the light when it turns green, the white car has blown past the whole lot of them on their right, and is trying to cut in near the front of the queue, presumably because either a) he is far more important than the rest of these poor saps, or b) he really, really needs to get to the loo.  If it were up to me, when I see you pull this stunt I wouldn't say you are doing anything illegal.  I also would not say that you are tricky, smart, cheeky, or even particularly clever.  I would just say you're an jerk.  Illegal?  No. Asshole?  Yes.

My second favourite driving infraction that was up for discussion is tailgating, or as some in this city like to think of it, "The Vehicular Anal Probe".  For those of you who don't have the pleasure of driving on Doha streets on a daily basis, this might warrant a description.  Imagine a three-lane expressway with a speed limit of 100 km/hr, but which really has no business having traffic on it travelling faster than 80 km/hr.  Now picture everyone in the middle and right lanes driving at speeds far lower than 100 km/hr.  It truly is enough to make a person weep.  My strategy is usually to drive in the left lane, going precisely 100.  Now, the other factor I need to add to this scenario is the group of countless large SUVs, usually Landcruisers, that come up behind those of us travelling at the speed limit in the left lane, sometimes flashing their lights and honking their horns, and position their grilles about halfway up our exhaust pipes.

What to do, as the driver in front of one of these lunatics?  Well here, I was certain, was the MOI to assure us that, after taking my online venting to heart, strict new rules would be in place to outlaw this dangerous practice.  But no.  Here was the MOI to disappoint.  The advice given to the group, when being tailgated by a nut-job driving 4700 pounds of metal on wheels, is to "put on your four-way flashers [hazard lights], and get out of the way when safe to do so."  They actually said that.  There was no suggestion of a fine, or a law, or enforcement if one already exists.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there it was, the Inshallah moment of the presentation:  "Look out for your own sorry rear-end, because it is fully and completely out of our hands."

But, really, we shouldn't lose heart.  Occasionally, a tailgater will become impatient and overtake you on the right.  And while there's evidently no ticket for doing that at high speed in the middle lane, he's probably the same guy who will get one later for trying to butt in line.  In the face of injustice, I'll settle for poetic justice any day of the week.


  1. Perhaps you should have VAPed this guy when he left the compound.

  2. Great idea, Gerry! Except the speed limit on the compound is only 15...would have felt more like a gentle spooning...

  3. LOL this happened to me.. (err.. this happens to me most days, because I, like you, drive at the speed limit in the 'fast' lane... ) what i was saying was, a police cruiser tailgatedd me last weekend :D

    1. Jaya, I'm glad someone out there can relate. Only in Doha! **sigh**