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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Traffic fines should be linked to salary 'to hit high earners in the wallet'

Legal figures call for strict move to improve road safety

A speed camera on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
A speed camera on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Drivers should be fined according to their salary in order to ensure the wealthiest cannot pay their way out of trouble, legal figures have said.

Introducing a system where financial penalties were linked to wages would provide a greater deterrent, it was suggested.

At present, the standard fine is Dh300 for breaching the speed limit by not more than 20kph.

It is Dh600 for speeding 30kph over the limit - a stern hit for the average driver but manageable for high-earners.

In addition, police in the emirates do not issue black points unless a motorist is driving at more than 50kph over the speed limit, which some lawyers said was lenient.

“In some European countries like Switzerland, the penalty for serious traffic violations is determined by a number of factors, such as whether it was committed in a residential area and if the individual is a repeat offender," said Ziad Galadari, chairman of Galadari Advocates & Legal Consultants, a large Dubai law frirm.

He said that the current fines list does pose a deterring factor, but not all wealthy individuals who break the traffic laws repeatedly.

"Accordingly, the fine amount is calculated based on a percentage of the offender’s monthly income - reaching up to 30 per cent," he said, adding that legislators should consider a similar move.

Last year, the UK introduced penalties of up to 175 per cent of their weekly income - a potentially huge financial penalty in a country where most fines were under the equivalent of Dh500.

The authorities said it reflected the seriousness at which they were taking tackling road deaths.

Lawyer Mahmood Al Mashhadani proposed that in addition to taking monthly income into account, authorities should also consider where an offence was committed.

“If someone is caught driving over the speed limit in a residential area, he or she should be fined twice as much than if they committed the same offence on Emirates Road," he said in reference to the intercity highway.

Recent statistics suggest repeated fines are having an impact on bad driving.

The number of people killed in road accidents in Abu Dhabi last year fell by about a third, police said on Tuesday, as they revealed more than four million fines were handed out to drivers.

There were a total of 199 deaths were recorded in 2017 - down from 289 in 2016. The overall number of accidents also dropped from 1,740 to 1,533.

Nationwide figures for 2017 are expected to be released soon, but in the first half of last year, 315 people died, the Ministry of Interior said, a drop of 18.4 per cent on 2016

Another Emirati lawyer, Abdulla Galadari, said the evolving system has helped to improve driver behaviour, but also backed the income-based fine, and said black points should be used more.

“Reckless drivers will be more inclined to follow traffic rules when they know they will lose their driving licence if they repeat such offences.”

Major General Mohammed Saif Al Zafeen, chairman of the Federal Traffic Council and assistant commander-in-chief of Dubai Police, did not back their calls, adding that drivers would likely try to find ways around it.

“If an offender with a high income had a domestic worker, or a sibling with a lower income, what would stop him or her from registering the vehicle in that person’s name, to avoid receiving a traffic fine?" he said.

“It's unlikely to see such a scheme be implemented here in the UAE, and if it's implemented successfully in a European country, it doesn't mean that it will be successful in the UAE.

"All due respect to the people who are calling for this, but I disagree with them."