x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Take the keys away from the UAE's worst drivers

It does not inspire faith in either the black-points system or enforcement standards that someone can continue to drive -and commit further offences - after already accruing a staggering number of fines.

A Bengali woman in Dubai has racked up 204 traffic offences already this year, The National reported yesterday. For most of us, the first reaction to this news will have been amazement: how can anyone incur roughly one fine every 18 hours?

The second reaction involves alarm: how is this driver still sharing the roads with the rest of us? How indeed do any of the worst offenders remain behind the wheel? Dubai police say 44 repeat offenders, a mix of expatriates and Emiratis, collectively owe Dh1.3 million in outstanding fines.

There is little comfort to be gained from learning that the unidentified Bengali woman has not come anywhere close to setting a record for bad driving: an Emirati man in Dubai amassed 12,740 traffic offences in the 18 months until last September. That's a mind-boggling rate of more than 23 a day - and those are just for the offences for which he was caught. His cumulative fines totalled nearly Dh9.4m.

The shock value of those figures belies the mundane reality that it's people like these who make driving in the UAE such a fraught experience. Who hasn't completed a car journey in this country and realised that their hands had been clenched with white-knuckle tightness on the steering wheel, their foot had been hovering over the brake in expectation of sudden hazard and their eyes had been scanning the road as vigilantly as a hungry falcon?

The UAE is by any measure a "car culture" but driving is always a privilege, rather than a right. The authorities have the legal tools to deal with those who abuse that privilege, including an undercover team with the power to seize the cars of the worst offenders. But this week, as they announced the news of the serial offenders, the Dubai police admitted that they had arranged for only about two-thirds of the 29 most frequent offenders to pay their outstanding fines.

It does not inspire faith in either the black-points system or enforcement standards that someone can continue to drive - and commit further offences - after already accruing a staggering number of fines.

Anyone who can't go more than a day or even a week without speeding, running a red light or weaving across lanes as if they were playing the video game Grand Theft Auto, surely forfeits the chance to be on the roads with sensible people who drive responsibly.