Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Traffic Rules OK

Many thanks to Ahmed The Fish, who has today sent me an email describing the penalties for various traffic offences that you may commit in Dubai and the penalties for doing so. There are 105 of them. I list below a tasty selection, with my comments...and by the way, I never knew they had penalty points on licences. Don't know how many gets ya disqualified or anyfink.

  • Entering the roundabout from the wrong lane. Dhs 100, 2 points on yer licence.
  • Overtaking vehicles on the right or in a dangerous way. Dhs 150, 3 points.
    Aha! Been doing it wrong all this time.
  • Failing to give signals when changing lanes or entering a roundabout. Dhs 150, 1 point.
    Not me mister.
  • Failing to leave enough between vehicles, Dhs 100, 1 point.
    Enough what?

  • Parking on the left side of the road. Dhs 150, 2 points .
  • Failing to ensure that the vehicle comes to a full stop. Dhs 150, 1 point.
  • Use of horn in restricted areas in a disturbing manner. Dhs 100, 1 point.
    Restricted? Disturbing?
  • Driving noise-producing vehicles, Dhs 100, 1 point
    That would be like, everyone!
  • Driving at a speed below "minimum speed" for the road. Dhs 100, 0 points.
    What is that exactly?
  • The sudden deviation in direction. Dhs 150, 1 point .
    But I need to go to Al Ain, NOW!
  • Driving in the wrong direction, Dhs 200, 3 points.
    This is the way to Al Ain, yes?
  • Enter the road in a dangerous way, Dhs 400, 4 points.
    3 of my 4 wheels are on the ground, what's your problem?
  • Littering motorists. Dhs 100, 2 points
    I try not to hit them, but they get everywhere.
  • Using rotating spot lights with different colors. Dhs 100, 2 points.
    Well the police. ambulance and fire service get away with it, why not me?
  • Leaving vehicle on the road with its engine running. Dhs 100, 3 points.
    Stuck on Sheikh Zayed Road again.
  • Opening the left hand door of a taxi. Dhs 100, 2 points.
    And if the passenger doesn't have a licence?

The list seems to be fairly comprehensive (actually too comprehensive) but the problem is to do with enforcement. I have witnessed most of these 'violations'- I've frequently seen punters speeding past police cars at well over the speed limit, and nothing ever happens.

Forgive me (deport me if you must), but I think we have a serious cultural problem here. Most of the cops on the street are Yemenis. They are poor, not-well-educated, and for them being a cop in Dubai is absolutely the best thing they could be. They are not going to rock any boats. They are not going to put themselves in a situation where they have to charge a rich and powerful local. The fines listed above are utterly meaningless to the rich young locals who cause most of the accidents. The confiscation of the vehicle is also meaningless - they have plenty more at home, and if they don't they can very easily get another one. Any problem that these guys face is dealt with by money and / or wasta (influence).

What it boils down to is respect for the rule of law (although it would help if the laws relating to driving were somewhat better publicised). There are cases in the UK where members of the royal family have been done for various traffic violations, and this is a splendid example. It shows that the law can and should be applied without fear or favour to all classes of society. Until the UAE can demonstrate that there is one law for everybody, no matter who they are and where they're from, we are all at risk from 'Road Surprises'. If you ever go to Abu Dhabi or the Northern Emirates, you will see signs saying 'Beware of Road Surprises' - I take this to mean unmarked speedbumps or lunatics in fast cars doing 200 kph up your donkey