View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Monday, March 19, 2007

What Does this Sign Mean in the U.A.E.?

In the U.A.E. this sign (pictured) is generally interpreted as ‘Give Way.’

I assumed that the U.A.E. followed the international traffic rules as defined by the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, in which ‘STOP’ in English and Arabic on an octagonal, red sign meant Stop! Completely! The memory of my mother getting heavily fined for failing to bring the wheels of her car to a standstill for three seconds is awakened every time I approach this sign.

When I started driving in the U.A.E., I was alarmed to discover cars thundering up behind me and drivers hurling abuse when I stopped at a ‘STOP’ sign, especially when there were no cars approaching on the other road.

As I mentioned in my previous posting, Road Safety in the U.A.E., I have not been able to locate a copy of the U.A.E. Road Code in English. However, when I asked a high ranking official in the Traffic and Licensing Division of the Ministry of Interior about whether a ‘STOP’ sign means stop, he said, “It is only academic. You do not have to stop if there are no cars coming on the road you are entering.” When I asked why at such intersections or highways there is not a ‘GIVE WAY’ sign instead of a ‘STOP’ sign he said, “‘GIVE WAY’ signs usually appear at roundabouts.”

An official at the Fujairah National Driving Institute gave the same ruling and he asked, “Why would you stop when there are no cars coming the other way?” To which I said, “Because it has been deemed a critical intersection or highway that requires people to come to a complete standstill in order to get a good view of the new road before proceeding.”

The ‘STOP’ sign in the U.A.E. is generally regarded in the way that it was interpreted to me by the traffic official and driving instructor. The lack of painted ‘Stop Lines’ further suggests there is no expectation of stopping completely. From observation, most drivers on U.A.E. roads, including the police and traffic instructors, treat the ‘STOP’ sign as a ‘GIVE WAY’ sign.

In view of the high number of fatalities and injuries on U.A.E. roads, many of which occur at intersections, further education on points of the Road Code might help to save more lives.

Geoff Pound

Image: ‘STOP’ sign in the U.A.E.