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Did I see a man die this morning?


Traffic in Saudi Arabia: After every white-knuckled trip here, I was such a raging, quaking mess that I finally gave up renting a car and took to using a driver.

This morning, heading east into Riyadh, I saw a bronze-colored Camry swerve on the west-bound service road. Trying to overtake slower traffic, he veered onto the soft shoulder but lost control. There was no guardrail, and I saw the vehicle slice into yellow sand and jackknife into the air. Kicking up a dense cloud of dust, the car flipped over once, the dark underbelly exposed, then flipped again. In a concussion of glass and metal, the Camry slammed to the asphalt, rocking on its roof in the middle of a four-lane freeway. Mecca Road.

Traffic on our side slowed for congestion and came to a full stop. The cars ahead -- not knowing what had just happened -- drove on, and the road ahead yawned with a strange yellow emptiness.

My heart smacked against my shirt. A whole busload of soldiers had been in traffic behind the Camry, and men in full-camo tactical gear cut through the dust, racing to reach the passengers.

Around us, Saudis in white robes stood by their cars, witnesses. The sun beat down and yellow sand settled. I caught the sharp tang of gasoline.

Soon, enough soldiers had reached the car and others began to spread out, making sure traffic got moving again.

"I see this every day," said Sabic, my driver. "Everyone stops to look. More accidents happen after."

Horns began honking. It was time to go, time to start the car and get moving.