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Oman's warning to UAE motorists

Almost half of the drivers crossing the border are uninsured, police say, exposing them to significant risk should they cause an accident.

AL AIN // Police in Buraimi have begun randomly stopping and inspecting vehicles bearing Emirati licence plates to see whether the drivers have the required liability insurance to drive in Oman. Almost half of them do not.

"There is a huge problem in Buraimi with Emiratis and expatriates driving across the border from the UAE that do not have insurance," said Sgt Walid al Balooshi of the Sultanate of Oman traffic police. "Almost half the vehicles coming in from the UAE are not insured in Oman. This is a huge problem considering that 20 per cent of accidents occurring in Buraimi involve drivers driving UAE-registered vehicles, almost half of which are not insured. We do the random checks from time to time, but with the summer beginning, we have been increasing our efforts to get motorists from the UAE insured."

According to Sgt al Balooshi, the fine for driving without valid insurance is higher than the cost of purchasing liability cover for a year. "The fine for driving without insurance in Oman is Dh500 (US$136)," he said. "Liability insurance costs only Dh350 for the year, a small price to pay that will provide motorists protection, peace of mind and confidence. It is well worth it." At the National Life and General Insurance Company at the Madheef border crossing in Buraimi, an insurance agent said that uninsured motorists involved in collisions in the town risked fines and imprisonment.

"Many have been jailed after having an accident because they don't have money to pay for either hospital bills or repairs following a crash in which it was determined they were at fault," she said. "Many people think that their Emirati insurance will cover them in Oman, but that is not always the case. Some Emirati insurance companies will insure their clients while driving in Oman, some cover them only in Buraimi, while some don't cover them at all outside the UAE."

Motorists entering Buraimi from Al Ain encounter no permanent Omani police checkpoint at either the Mudheef or the Hilli crossings. After clearing immigration on the Emirates side, motorists simply drive into Buraimi unchecked. People continuing on past Buraimi on the road towards Muscat, Sohar and Hatta are required to stop at the Wadi al Jizi checkpoint 40km down the highway. It is there that they go through immigration and customs checks, and where Omani police ask to see an insurance certificate.

Drivers of hired cars face particular problems because of a surge in thefts of vehicles that are taken across the border never to return. Rental companies in the UAE are now warning motorists who plan trips to Oman or Saudi Arabia to obtain No Objection Certificates (NOC) from them beforehand, as border officers are getting tougher with the rules requiring proof of rental registration, Oman car insurance, and the permission letter. Some companies will not provide insurance for travel outside the UAE, leaving it up to the drivers to obtain coverage independently.

The Dhofar Insurance Company office at the checkpoint on the road to Muscat is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and charges Dh100 for 10 days of personal liability insurance. Seven out of 10 motorists driving Emirati-registered vehicles surveyed in Buraimi by The National this week said their UAE insurance covered them while driving in Oman. Most said they had paid about Dh500 extra for this cover.

In addition to levying fines for lack of insurance, police are also checking the level of tint on cars' windows. As in Abu Dhabi, it is illegal in Oman to tint car windows more than 30 per cent. In Abu Dhabi the rule is rarely enforced, but in Oman fines of Dh100 are regularly imposed. ealghalib@thenational.ae

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