Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

The Dh500 life lesson learnt when it comes to reporting car incidents in the UAE

Returning a damaged vehicle, unreported, to a rental company is unwise, as I found out this week

More than 450,000 drivers have benefitted from a police campaign rewarding safe driving with traffic fine discounts. Chris Whiteoak / The National
More than 450,000 drivers have benefitted from a police campaign rewarding safe driving with traffic fine discounts. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“Now Saeed, tell me again what happened?” inquired the regal-looking Emirati behind a mahogany desk that oozed authority.

I, Saeed, was standing in Saaed, where the roving traffic and accident assistance organisation do their investigations. The spacious room, located in Saaed’s headquarters in Mushrif, functions as both an office and mini courtroom; I witnessed the latter as I observed the Emirati man calmly adjudicating between two drivers involved in an increasingly tense argument about who was responsible for rear-ending a car.

“Look, I admit I hit you, there is no denying that,” said the accused. “But you didn’t make any signal.” The accuser was outraged: “Signal? Come on brother, I did and it was clear as daylight.”

Testimonies were abruptly halted with the sigh of the official. He had seen enough, and briskly ruled in favour of the accused, stamped a document and whisked them out. Then he turned to me.

To be honest, I told him that I didn’t know what I was doing there. The situation escalated so rapidly: a mere hour ago I was having breakfast on my couch. It all started, I explained, when I went to return my car to the rental company on Airport Road. I knew there were going to be some questions because of the dent in the front of the car, which caused one of the bottom front lights to become slightly dislodged. It was there for all to see.

“No problem,” I told the concerned official at the rental car ­company when I turned up. “I have full ­insurance, just tell me what the excess fee is and let’s get it sorted.” Much to my surprise, it wasn’t that simple.

The agent explained I needed to go to Saaed and get a form­ ­authorising that “the dent is a self-made ­accident”. Which it was, I assured him, but when I couldn’t say when it happened, he just shook his head and, to my alarm, muttered “inshallah, it will be fine.” And there we were 15 minutes later, standing at attention in front of my Hyundai as the Saaed officer inspected the front damage. “Looks like someone punched it in the face,” he said.

He didn’t laugh, and so I kept a straight face. Then came the questions, each one delivered more incredulously. So what happened? (I hit the wall, I think). Only a wall? (Yes, I misjudged the turn). When did it happen? (About three months ago). Three months! Where? (Er, I don’t know. It was a while, maybe around Reem Island).

Then I was whisked inside, and signed a few forms before I was told to go to the ­investigations unit. The official looked at me quizzically. “Why did it take you so long to report?” he asked.

Because I hit a wall, I said. And I thought I was only supposed to call Saaed when I hit a car.

“Not really,” the man said. “You call Saaed when you are involved in any incident with your car. That way we know your car was not involved in any illegal activity and you are ­essentially covered. Yalla, we are done here. This is a good lesson so please don’t forget this.”

I won’t, the Dh500 administration fee will make sure of that.

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Updated: January 26, 2019 12:06 PM

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