144. Driving age

Tonight I am sitting here in my 128th floor office at UAE Uncut Towers with the air conditioning on. I have traded the snow and the bitter cold of the UK for the relentless inferno that is the UAE. Yes, I have returneth. Being back in London last week was, in all honesty, a rather large eye-opener for yours truly. Oh sure it was wonderful to catch up with my friends and family, but as I sat there in The Victoria one afternoon listening to a table of elderly men discuss the proportional differences between their wedding vegetables, I was hit by startling revelation: I am an idiot.

No, really, I am as beef-witted as your out-of-the-box Kardashian. I normally come to this little corner of the internet, rant and rave about the UAE and how the UK is this and that, and then go ahead and contradict myself the following day. But as I sat there eavesdropping on unquestionably the most disturbing conversation held since Charles Manson’s initial get-together, I asked myself what the hell did I see in that place? The old men with mismatched genitals, their ailments, the dinosaur attitude towards busty barmaids; Jesus, where was I? The following day I was back in the same pub and wept a tear from my eye about how much I loved it and how brilliant it was.

Last week I sang the praises of London Transport, but since that time I had to ride the District Line during the rush hour. Standing there with my nose in a stranger’s armpit and a copy of The Metro up my bottom I turned on my own sentiments like a flash. And therein lies the problem; I change opinions like I change underpants (which to put your mind at ease, is a daily routine). Seriously, I cannot keep an opinion for more than a minute without swapping it for a shiny new one whenever the mood takes me. How, then, will I ever be taken seriously as a writer? What use would I be coming before you one day saying that George Osbourne is about as effective a Chancellor as a carrot, and then the next day preach his recession-combating magnificence? I’d be jeered, booed, ridiculed and most likely, shot.

So, is this the end of UAE Uncut? Has my unswerving integrity finally been exposed as nothing more than a charade? Am I just another internet thug with brainwashing intent? Probably, but that won’t stop me telling you what I think about the latest idea of lowering the driving age in the UAE.

Here in the UAE you have to be 18 to learn how to drive; in the UK it is 17. I know a few 17 year olds and the thought of getting into a car with any of them makes we want to set myself alight and jump out of a window. My friends and former colleagues will tell you that I go everywhere flat out, and when I was 17 I was what you would describe as a “little shit.” I passed my test when I was 17 years and 4 months old and on my first day waking up a man I offered to drive my sisters to school. A 1992 1.4 litre Vauxhall Astra estate is a beast that great men still struggle to tame to this day, so when I returned home some 15 minutes after setting off, the bonnet, grille and headlights had gone.

An old family photo of me aged 17 in my old Astra.

An old family photo of me aged 17 in my old Astra.

Yep, I crashed. Into a parked BMW, and drove off. Yikes. By the grace of God my Dad managed to get me off Scott free, but since that time the slow motion replay of me sliding into the back of that navy Beemer forever burns in my mind. Had I not had that crash who knows what may have happened later on, it was, in hindsight, a right of passage. I had discovered the limits early on and that instantly made me a better driver. I was, as a matter of fact, Steve McQueen in my Astra Mustang.

But, and despite next weeks blog that says the total opposite, the driving in the UK is inherently good. We have had 3-4 generations that have dealt with the wheeled beasts and the perils are well-known. Here in the UAE the situation is very different and I doubt very much that people younger than 18 will be of much use. The idea behind the whole thing, apparently, is to relieve the burden from poor old mum and dad. Johnny Teenager would be able to drive a car, with a chaperone, to run errands for his parents. He could do the groceries, pick up the dry cleaning, take little sister to dance practice or cruise around the streets at 3am, sideways, and on fire.

But who would the chaperone be, exactly? Mum or dad? Doesn’t that negate the whole thing in the first place? Will a special man with a moustache have to be employed solely as a watchman? Surely it wouldn’t be Jimmy Land Cruiser from over the road? That lunatic is always getting into pickles.

No matter, each car will be fitted with a speed control device that limits the cars capability. Such technology is very simple. You have a device that cuts the spark to the spark plugs, therefore lowering the speed of the engine. But the pistons keep pumping and fuel keeps pouring into the cylinder, so it carbons up and the engine, before too long, will need an expensive overhaul. The reality though is that Johnny Teenager will simply go and borrow his mates Skyline GTR instead.

Where I think we should cut the youths some slack is on the statistics front. I love it when people don’t think about what they’re publishing, and when it was said that 53% of all road accidents are caused by people aged between 18 and 40, it openly implies that 47% of accidents are caused by people aged 41-70. That seems fairly even to me, 100% of people are attributed to road accidents…

Of course the insurance companies won’t want to know. I had to pay £1600 in 2002 for my first full-years insurance; for a 1.4 litre Vauxhall Astra. What would a UAE premium be for a 15 year old in a Lamborghini Gallardo? Seven trillion dirhams?

Mum and dad, I’m afraid, will have to rely on the servants and personal drivers to continue to carry out the errands for now. Johnny Teenager needs to study and reach puberty before he is given the keys to the Ferrari 430. I can kind of see the idea behind this scheme, but then, I really can’t put it into words, either. Everyone has a crash at some point in their lives, and to get it over and done with early on may not be such a bad thing. I am, however, fairly sure that lowering the age below 18 in the UAE would be a disaster and I think back to when I was 17…

…Thank God I crashed on day one, otherwise who knows how dangerous I could have been?

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3 thoughts on “144. Driving age

  1. Ivan Kalinin says:

    Brought back my good old memories :)) I actually never wanted to drive so I passed my test when I was 20 and even that was done only because my best mate decided to go to driving school and I thought it would be cool to sit at the same desk just like in school days.

    But yeah, immediately after my passing I was given a Lada 4×4 and crashed it really soon after I started driving. Thanks to Soviet project, Lada just suffered with a bent bumper whereas Honda estate in front of me lost almost all its backside. I saw it completely fixed several months later though 🙂 Anyway, the point is, after that I bought number of books on advanced driving and about driving in a bad conditions and… Well, I’m happy with how peaceful I am on the public roads now. Sometimes bad experience can be a really good lesson for the future indeed.

  2. louise says:

    I remember your story of your first day driving…..I also remmber you doing donuts in the car park, you running over a pigeon…..and me being fearful for my life in a car with you 😉

    • Do you know that the pigeon episode was foremost on my mind when writing this one, I was going to include it. Your terrified shriek still makes me laugh uncontrollably to this day. I am sorry, Louise, that you were the one who bore the biggest brunt of my brazen automotive escapades! I’ve slowed down now, well, a little bit. 🙂

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