Confiscating the vehicles of bad drivers, as Abu Dhabi is doing, may seem harsh, but it should serve to get the attention of all drivers.
Confiscating cars is one way forward
Last month, 22 drivers watched unhappily as their cars or lorries were confiscated for speeding and dangerous overtaking. For them, a month without their vehicles will be a harsh penalty. But as the number of traffic accidents continues to rise, a strong medicine is needed for a serious disease.
Certain remedies have worked better than others. As we report today, accidents on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway have dropped by almost a third since a lower speed limit was enforced this year, traffic police say.
Other penalties seem to have made less difference. The black points system was implemented in January 2007, intended to reduce risky behaviour on the roads. But the system wasn't as effective as had been hoped, in part because offenders could wipe away their points simply by attending a four-lecture course on road safety, and by paying fines. There were even reports of offenders attempting to sell off their black points to those with clean records.
Hefty fines for speeding do not seem to be a deterrent either. In Al Ain alone, 300,000 speeding tickets were given out in the first three months of this year - but the number of traffic accidents and road fatalities is still alarmingly high. Even revoking licences can be pointless if motorists decide to drive illegally regardless.
So the time has come to impose stricter measures - as letter writers to this newspaper have argued recently - and confiscating vehicles may prove to be the best solution yet. It is unfortunate for these 22 people that they had to take the blow - they are certainly not the only reckless drivers out there. However, confiscating vehicles is the most attention-getting penalty so far, one that other drivers will want to avoid. Authorities may well find that this penalty, backed by more police patrols on the roads, will be the most effective one yet.
It is unclear if the practice of removing cars from the roads will become more prevalent. Real success for traffic enforcement, and for safety, would be for all drivers to become aware of this possible penalty, and to start driving more carefully to avoid it - not to mention accidents.
A serious problem demands a serious remedy. We can no longer be lenient with reckless drivers.