x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The fast - and the furious

Police see a big jump in speeding tickets during the start of Ramadan as people rush to make their iftar meals.

Vehicles are parked in an erratic manner in mosque areas, like the one near Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, during the maghreb prayer that marks the end of the day's fast.
Vehicles are parked in an erratic manner in mosque areas, like the one near Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, during the maghreb prayer that marks the end of the day's fast.

ABU DHABI // People rushing to their iftar meal led to a big increase in the number of speeding tickets issued during the first 10 days of Ramadan, police said yesterday. Speeding tickets accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the 28,865 traffic offences recorded in Abu Dhabi since the start of the holy month. The total number of offences was about 10,000 more than in a typical 10-day period.

That 19,762 were speeding offences did not surprise the traffic police. "During Ramadan the people are in a hurry to catch iftar, so speeding and crossing the red light increases," said Lt Abdul Motalib al Hamadi, the director of traffic media and public relations for Abu Dhabi Police. Motorists were also warned not to double park or block the road in front of mosques during prayers, a violation which led to 330 tickets for "disturbing the traffic flow".

Ahmed Abdul Latif, 27, an Egyptian marketing manager living in Abu Dhabi, said he believed the rise in offences was because of police ramping up fines in an "excessive" way. "They will come on certain days and give the entire city fines, then they disappear for a few days. They've already done that a couple of times during Ramadan," he said. "On those days, every few metres you'll see a car stopped and getting a fine. If you switch lanes a police car will come behind you and tell you to stop. If you park with your car slanted a bit, a fine."

Mr Abdul Latif said he received three parking fines, between Dh200 and Dh300, since the beginning of Ramadan for parking in the middle of two-way streets, which he acknowledged was illegal but is generally accepted in Abu Dhabi. "These fines are a hassle. I'll go around a seven-building block and that's the only parking place I will find. There really is no place to park," he said. Police said they would increase patrols in front of mosques and shopping malls, especially before iftar and night prayers.

"When things get hectic in front of mosques, police are called in to manage traffic. Also in front of some mosques we have fixed patrols," Lt al Hamadi said. Col Khamis Ishaq, the deputy director general of the Abu Dhabi Police Traffic and Patrols, said traffic patrols would be increased during the second half of Ramadan because that was when people start getting ready for Eid. Police would focus on catching speeders.

Zakir Hussain, 35, a Pakistani taxi driver, said he had received three speeding fines during Ramadan, which he blamed on "impatient" customers. "People in the taxi ask me to speed. They say, 'Go faster, I'm late', especially after they finish work," said Mr Hussain, who said he was fined Dh3,200 over the past month for driving above the speed limit. He said streets were generally empty at iftar but they become crowded again after the evening prayers.

During iftar, he parks outside a mosque or Ramadan tent that provides free iftar so he can break his fast. "I eat iftar, pray, then I leave," he said. hdajani@thenational.ae kshaheen@thenational.ae