Driving Safety: A Kuwaiti Oxymoron
Welcome to Kuwait, the nation that boasts the highest traffic crash rate in the world. In a country the size of New Jersey there are 60,000 traffic accidents each year and 400 fatalities.
400 seems low for the way they drive here.
People drive on the sidewalks, they drive the wrong way down the streets, they drive with unrestrained kids hopping back and forth over the seats, and they drive while reading the newspaper. It makes the texting-while-driving epidemic in the U.S. look tame.
Teens here like to "sandal surf," a sport where the driver barrels down the highway at 100+ km per hour, while the passengers hang out the doors and skim their sandals along the surface of the highway. Talk about a way to ruin a pedicure.
Kuwait is an immensely wealthy nation, and I have yet to see anyone here driving a clunker. The parking garage across from my complex holds a Maserati, a Lamborghini, and several other sports cars that I can only identify as A) really expensive and B) really powerful. The contractors here mostly drive new Pajeros and similar SUVs.
All of that to say, when you put that kind of horsepower on the roads, human nature wants to test it.
Well, not my human nature. My human nature wants to hire a chauffeur and never, ever, ever get behind the wheel. But that's not the way it works, and sooner or later I am going to have to drive on these highways.
The most memorable piece of advice to come out of my driver's safety course yesterday was: Don't hit a camel on the highway. Especially not a white one. You'll be paying the family back for the rest of your life.
Not "don't hit a camel because you might die, and the world would be a poorer place for your tragic loss." But "you can't afford to buy a white camel."
I also attended several safety briefings in the last two days in which nearly every male spoke darkly of the dangers to females here. They made it sound like abduction and rape happen daily, on every corner. Then the women came in to conduct their briefings and rolled their eyes and told me what I already knew, which was not to listen to them, to be smart, and to be your own best defender.
Which shows an interesting dichotomy of thought. Many men believe women either are, or should be afraid of physical danger. Smart women, on the other hand, know that if you carry yourself with authority, project confidence and fearlessness, and stay alert, there's no reason at all to be afraid.
Unless you hit a camel.
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