x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Call for legal crackdown on drivers in UAE who kill

Drivers who cause death or serious injury should be imprisoned for longer, have their licences revoked and be ordered to take remedial driving classes, road-safety campaigners say.

Thomas Edelmann, founder of the website Road Safety UAE, says: “Lawmakers need to do international benchmarking to understand what role special penalties could play in improving safety.” Sarah Dea / The National
Thomas Edelmann, founder of the website Road Safety UAE, says: “Lawmakers need to do international benchmarking to understand what role special penalties could play in improving safety.” Sarah Dea / The National

DUBAI // Drivers who cause death or serious injury should be imprisoned for longer, have their licences revoked and be ordered to take remedial driving classes, road-safety campaigners say.

“It is time to re-examine the laws. We should consider if we are sending the right message to motorists and to international visitors, in light of increasing tourism and the Expo 2020,” said Robert Hodges, chief operating officer at Emirates Driving Institute, a driving school that also runs road-safety courses.

“We have to try to benchmark international norms and adopt best practices. And once the laws are reviewed, prosecutors should send a blunt message that law breakers on the roads will not be tolerated.”

Last year, a drink-driver who ran over and killed the popular Dubai triathlete Roy Nasr was sentenced to a month in prison.

This week a Brazilian drink-driver was given a two-month sentence for running over and killing a British tourist in Dubai, then trying to flee the country.

Last year 12 people were killed in Dubai in incidents involving drivers under the influence of alcohol, an increase from five in 2012.

The emirate’s transport regulator, the Roads and Transport Authority, joined calls for legal changes.

“These laws have been there for many years,” said Ahmed Bahrozyan, chief executive of the authority’s licensing agency.

“It was not a big issue back then when they were put in place but the circumstances have changed and the city has grown. Such offences in another country would have got multiple years.

“The laws need to be reviewed and should be more in line with changing circumstances and what the primary causes of accidents are.

“If drink-driving is the primary cause of accidents, we need to take action. This is the logical way forward.”

Thomas Edelmann, founder of the website Road Safety UAE, said: “Lawmakers need to do international benchmarking to understand what role special penalties could play in improving safety.

“Road safety is a two-pronged approach. It is about educating people, which is the carrot approach, while the stick approach is penalising people who don’t follow the rules.”

Mr Bahrozyan called for a policy review at a federal level. “Our cities are small and the driver could be from another emirate. Policies are more effective if they come from the federal authority,” he said.

Of the most recent incident, Mr Hodges, of the driving school, said: “A hit and run case is serious. It is not a premeditated murder but what makes it bad is that the car driver was drunk, he drove on without stopping to check if the victim was all right and tried to escape the country. Elsewhere, he would have got between five and 15 years.”

However, lawyers urged caution in drawing general conclusions from specific cases. Ezzeldin Othman, of Ezz law firm, said there was no long-term jail sentence because it was an accident.

“The jail time of two months that the Brazilian received is because he was drunk at the time. Deportation is also not compulsory in such cases,” he said.

Bahi El Jendy, of International Advocate Legal Services, said: “When there is a case such as a drunk driver accidentally killing someone, many factors are taken into consideration.

“Depending on the case, the fault does not necessarily fall completely on the driver, even if he was drunk.

“Sometimes, the victim may have contributed to the accident and that would decrease the percentage of fault on the accused.

“As a lawyer, I do think it’s just. It can happen to anyone that they accidentally kill someone, especially when we’re talking about vehicles. The driver is in the wrong to be drunk, but that does not make him a criminal.

“The judge takes many things into consideration and he has the full authority to measure all these factors in line with the law.”

pkannan@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Dana Moukhallati