Sheikh Mohammed Decrees Minor Traffic Offenses to be Overlooked
An order from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid to exempt drivers guilty of minor traffic offences from having their vehicles impounded will allow authorities to concentrate on more reckless motorists, experts say.
On Wednesday, Sheikh Mohammed, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, ordered authorities not to impound the cars of motorists if they did not have a history of major traffic violations.
He also ordered the release of vehicles that had completed half of the impound period.
Maj Gen Abdullah Al Marri, chief of Dubai Police, said the initiative is aimed at encouraging motorists to keep a clean driving record.
Minor offences include expired registration, licence and insurance or faulty tyres. Reckless driving, road racing, and jumping traffic lights do not fall under the exemptions.
Michael Dreznes, executive vice president of the International Road Federation, backed the new car impound rules.
“Having a car impounded is a harsh penalty and not a realistic penalty for a minor infraction by a first-time offender,” he said
“However, for unpaid fines, repeat offenders or major offences such as reckless driving impounding a car is justified and the fear of losing their cars may make motorists obey the rules.”
Vehicles are seized for speeding, reckless driving, jumping signals, not renewing registration, accumulating traffic fines, maximising black points on a driver’s licence, and abandonment.
However, not everyone believes impounding is an effective deterrent, said Kamui Mahtani, 28, a Dubai resident from Japan.
“If the police impound a wealthy motorist’s car, he can get into another,” he said.
“But exempting drivers who have committed minor offences is generally a great initiative, especially for poor people who rely on their cars to get around.”
Saif binAdhed, an Emirati motorsport enthusiast whose car was impounded twice, agreed the new rules would benefit those with minor offences and limited income.
“I view Sheikh Mohammed’s orders as a kind gesture,” Mr binAdhed said. “I expect people to appreciate it and they’ll have more respect for the traffic rules.
“But I know a friend who pays Dh30,000 in fines every year, so, from his perspective, I don’t think impounding a car is an effective deterrent when you can ‘bail’ it out.”
Community service, he said, will be a better measure against reckless driving, whether one is wealthy or of low income.
Last February, Sheikh Mohammed ordered a group of men arrested for bad driving to perform community service by cleaning the city’s streets for four hours a day, for 30 days.
“Unless the community service is a tough assignment, losing a car will most likely be a better deterrent to stop the offender from making the mistake again,” Mr Dreznes said.
“It could be that the community service is a more harsh and a more effective punishment for certain individuals. In that case, a judge would be allowed to determine which penalty should be enforced.”
While the new car impound rules seek to reduce the number of Dubai-registered vehicles taken off the road, they highlights the need to change the UAE’s driving culture, Thomas Edelmann, founder of Road Safety UAE, said.
“Reckless drivers might not be hit by financial penalties as much as they are affected by performing community service as a penalty. Sheikh Mohammed’s approach is a very creative and effective way to communicate to traffic violators.”