x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Surge in fines as police begin stricter enforcement

Speed limit reforms are taking Abu Dhabi drivers by surprise, and they are unprepared for the high fines that accompany citations

In December, the Traffic Police announced the reduction of speed limits in residential areas by 20kph, and changes to speed limits on various major roads.
In December, the Traffic Police announced the reduction of speed limits in residential areas by 20kph, and changes to speed limits on various major roads.

ABU DHABI // Obey the speed limits and you won’t be fined. That was the blunt message yesterday from Abu Dhabi’s traffic police chief to drivers complaining about a tough new enforcement regime.

One car leasing company said some of its customers had been fined 11 times in a month since the new policy began on January 1 and individual drivers spoke yesterday of their surprise at the number of times they have been fined.

Ann Duffy, who had a clean slate from last October until the end of the year, was caught speeding five times in January and fined  Dh2,700. “I don’t understand why this has happened,” she said.

Reem Shamoun, who commutes between emirates, was also fined five times in a month. “I haven’t checked online because I’m afraid of what I’m going to see,” she said.

Brig Gen Hussein al Harethi, head of Abu Dhabi Traffic Police, said the surge was due to stricter enforcement and more radars, patrols and undercover police cars. “There are people who follow the law and there are people who do not. For those who do, this strict enforcement will make no difference.”

In December, the Traffic Police announced the reduction of speed limits in residential areas by 20kph, and changes to speed limits on various major roads; some were reduced, and some increased because they were thought to be too low. The limits on highways remain the same.

Mrs Duffy, who has been driving in Abu Dhabi since October, said she was shocked when she received a list of fines from her car rental company, Diamond Lease.

“It was the first time we ever received speed violations, and it happened all at once,” she said. “And I haven’t changed my driving habits at all.

“While I’m aware that the fines vary depending on how much the speed limit was exceeded, the list did not specify this or the exact location where we received the fine.”

A Diamond Lease employee said several customers had complained about receiving as many as 11 speeding fines in the past month.

Ms Shamoun, a computer program manager at Bates PanGulf, also said she was surprised to find out she had sped past at least five radar cameras in the past month. “I keep getting text messages about my violations,” she said.

Noura Ali, a marketing executive, said she was pulled over while driving at 140kph on Salam Street, where the speed limit is 100kph. “I was caught by a radar, which then signalled the police officer,” she said.

Her experience indicates that the Traffic Police’s new central control system, which links radar stations and traffic-light cameras with patrol cars, is beginning to take effect.

Mrs Duffy complained that not enough publicity had accompanied the new enforcement strategy. “If you want to change a particular behaviour, that’s fine, but people need to know exactly what that change is and what is expected from them.”

However, Brig Gen al Harethi pointed out that the changes had been announced in advance, and Traffic Police had taken the necessary measures to make drivers aware, including widespread publicity in newspapers and the distribution of brochures and leaflets.

This approach did not work with everyone, he said, which was why strict enforcement was necessary. “Our goal is the safety of the community,” the officer said.

mismail@thenational.ae