x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

'YouTube' drivers fined Dh1,000 for recklessness

A police officer and government worker who performed car stunts on Sheikh Zayed Road are convicted and fined.

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DUBAI // A police officer and government worker who performed dangerous stunts in their 4x4s on Sheikh Zayed Road that were posted to YouTube were yesterday convicted of reckless driving and fined Dh1,000 each. However, the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours found the 25-year-old policeman, identified as SS, and SG, 20, both Emiratis, not guilty of endangering the public and intentionally endangering motorists.

They performed circular tyre burnouts known as doughnuts and drove their vehicles on two wheels on the city's main thoroughfare on May 1. They were arrested after video footage of the stunts was broadcast on YouTube, sparking a public outcry. The controversy also attracted international media attention. Their lawyer, Saeed al Ghailani, told the court the incident took place during a sanctioned parade, which was overseen by police, by supporters of Al Wasl football club to celebrate their UAE Football League championship. He claimed that the highway was closed at the time to allow the supporters to celebrate. He also claimed his clients were not the only motorists performing stunts and had no criminal intent.

He also questioned why his clients were being punished twice for the same offence. Police fined SS and SG Dh1,000 and Dh2,400, respectively, and impounded their cars for a month that day. Police launched a criminal investigation after video clips of the incident were posted to YouTube. The video footage shows the defendants' pick-up truck and 4x4 spinning and skidding across the road, and zig-zagging through traffic while balanced on two wheels.

It drew a quick response from Maj Gen Khamis al Mazeina, Dubai's Deputy Police Chief. "We will pursue any person across the country who will carry out such illegal activities and endanger people's lives," he said. "However, it is important to emphasize that such acts are individual cases and do not reflect the behaviour of Emirati youth, who in general are responsible individuals who know how to use cars."

Gen al Mazeina had previously noted that no public complaints about the incident had reached the Dubai Police's operations centre. He encouraged people to notify police of such incidents in the future. "The group took advantage of the fact that police patrols were busy supervising the march and arranged for this act without being noticed or caught," he said. This incident coincided with a Dubai Police announcement that they intended to lower the statistical traffic death rate to zero per 100,000 people by 2020. A task force to tackle aggressive driving was created as part of the initiative.

The task force confiscated 46 cars between April and June and issued more than 4,100 fines for offences such as reckless driving and tailgating. Police patrols and unmarked police cars have been deployed around the clock on the city's main roads, including Sheikh Zayed and Emirates roads. The incident helped fuel a debate on the driving habits of young Emiratis. Road safety experts say some young people fail to understand the risks involved in reckless driving and are overconfident.

Dr Yousif al Hosani, a public health consultant and road safety expert, said the lack of community support for traffic safety initiatives and low levels of enforcement were to blame. "Local drivers are largely wealthy young men living in a country that they know well and anxious to show their mastery of powerful and expensive motorcars and to impress their peers," he said. "In this context, traffic fines have little deterrent effect on the behaviour." amustafa@thenational.ae