x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

On the Money: Motorist sees the light after year of fine-free driving

I know that protecting our loved ones by driving safely should be motivation enough. Clearly, it's not that way for many, but the savings of a traffic fine-free life might do the trick.

Gary Clement for The National
Gary Clement for The National

Eureka moments come at the most unexpected of times, but I guess that's why they're called eureka moments.

Take the Greek scholar Archi-medes, who is believed to have shouted "eureka" after stepping into his bath and noticing that the level of the water rose. This, according to Wikipedia, apparently caused something to click and he suddenly realised that the "volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged".

An exciting discovery I am sure, but each to their own. The story continues with Archimedes leaping out of the bathtub and running naked through the streets of Syracuse, so eager was he to share his news.

We've all had our share of eureka moments, although probably not as important as that of Archimedes or even the gold prospectors of the 1800s, who were known to shout "eureka" whenever they stumbled on a fist-sized nugget of the precious metal. And who wouldn't.

Some eureka moments can make us rich, some can make us wiser, while some people have been known to undergo a massive sea change and turn their lives upside down because of them.

That sea change can also be known as the mid-life crisis, when men turn 50, spend their children's inheritance on clothes that should only be seen in Saturday Night Fever, hang some serious bling around their necks, undo the top three or four buttons of their shirts to show it off, buy a racy red sports car or a Harley-Davidson, start working out and do lots of other idiotic things that I won't be going into here. So perhaps that type of eureka moment doesn't really apply here. Instead, we'll call it a lapse in focus. A serious one.

I had a rare eureka moment last week, but, unlike Archimedes, I didn't celebrate by running naked through the streets of Abu Dhabi. That would get me arrested - or at the very least, be accused of going through a mid-life crisis. It's a good thing I'm not old enough for that. And that I'm a woman - and we all know that women don't experience mid-life crises, except through the eyes of their 50-plus husbands.

No, mine was a much quieter affair and nobody celebrated it - although for a moment there, I expected the big band to strike up and confetti to fall from the ceiling. To receive a set of steak knives, perhaps, or at least to see a light bulb go on above my head. I did get the light bulb, but I was the only one who saw it. And that's because it was my eureka moment.

So there I was, sitting in the very uninspiring Traffic and Licensing Department in Abu Dhabi, patiently waiting my turn to register my car and pay my annual traffic fines.

Last year, it cost me about Dh900 in fines, on top of the extremely reasonable Dh100 to renew my registration and Dh5 for that little sticker that goes on the licence plate at the back of the car.

Compared with some drivers in the UAE, Dh900 is a small price to pay for slightly breaking the speed limit a few times over the course of a year. And perhaps to go through an amber light here and there, although I don't really remember doing that.I got off pretty lightly, but I've known some people who have faced tens of thousands of dirhams in fines simply because they couldn't slow down or didn't want to wait at the lights for the next change.

This year? This is where it gets exciting (OK, I live a pretty boring life). Over the past year, I failed (the first time I'm happy to use that word in connection with myself) to incur any traffic fines. Seriously. I even asked the woman at the counter to repeat it. Twice.

And that's when I looked around, expecting the big band to strike up, the set of steak knives to be handed over, the manager to shake my hand and the confetti to fall from the ceiling.

Handing over the Dh100 to pay for my registration, that's when it hit me: why don't all drivers in the UAE drive safely?

I know that protecting our loved ones and saving lives on the roads by driving safely should be motivation enough. Clearly, it's not that way for many.

But the thought of saving some serious money may help some drivers to slow down, buckle up, strap their children in, put an end to that infuriating passive-aggressive bullying, stop running amber - and red - lights and giving way to pedestrians, just to name a few of the infractions I've witnessed on the roads here.

It's a no-brainer - and surely I can't be the only one who's realised this. Think what you could do with the money you save in traffic fines. Use it to pay next year's car insurance, take a holiday, invest it or put it towards your children's education. Even use it to pay for some driving lessons to learn the rules of the road. The options are limitless.

It's a novel idea, I know, but perhaps it will get through - eventually.

fglover@thenational.ae