Sunday, January 06, 2008

Motoring and stuff

According to a report in Khaleej Times today, the Ministry of Interior has announced that much tougher penalties for various traffic violations will apply from March 1.

Both fleeing the scene of an accident in which someone was injured and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs will mean a prison term and a fine of not less than Dh20,000.

Jail, a fine or both will be the result for people driving when they've been banned, driving without a licence or driving a vehicle they're not licenced to drive. Jail for at least three months, a fine of at least Dh5,000 or both are the punishment.

There are also stiffer sentences for people guilty of various number plate offences, such as making/using fake number plates, changing or distorting number plates.

I've said many times before that I'm all for education and awareness programmes to change driver attitudes. But for an immediate impact I'm in favour of tougher punishment right now, fines, jail, vehicle confiscation in particular, to force the morons to do the right thing. Let's hope there's better enforcement than has been the case in the past.

You can read the full story and interview with Colonel Ghaith Al Za’abi, Director of the Traffic Department, here.

There were a couple of other traffic-related stories that caught my eye during the last few days too.

Dubai Police patrols will all be issued with a measuring device able to check the level of tinting on vehicle windows, the limit being 30% of course. The device has been undergoing tests and traffic police have completed a training course in its use. The tests apparently confirmed the accuracy of the device, which is placed on the vehicle window, a button is pushed and, hey presto, an accurate reading of the level of tinting is displayed.

That's a positive move - driving is bad enough without the added hazzard of drivers not being able to see where they're going.

Salik fiasco

The other story was this bizarre Salik fines being waived yes-they-are-no-they're-not fiasco.

What a great example of the factor underlying most of our problems here in Dubai - make a decision and act on it before it's been thought through. (That will be the subject of another posting because it's the most frustrating thing of all about Dubai).

Our beloved RTA announced that as a gesture of goodwill - no, seriously, that's what they said - they were waiving all fines for the first four months of the system.

The Director of Intelligent Traffic Systems (isn't that an oxymoron?) at the RTA said: "There is no problem with the system (no, stop laughing) but we are lenient on issuing fines because some motorists did not provide correct data".

Now Look! I've told you before, will you please stop causing the RTA problems!

All of us who'd spent hours or days trying to find an outlet to buy our Salik tags, spent Dh50 to set up our account, topped up our account when told to do so, were steaming with fury. Why did we bother!

The papers were full of the anger.

Then the RTA realised they hadn't actually thought it through, gave it some quick thought for an hour or two and next day announced a change of policy.

Now they said that fines would be waived for motorists registered with Salik, while motorists who'd used the toll-road without tags would still be fined. Registered motorists who'd paid fines already could claim their money back.

Oh, and the waiver is only for individual car owners and not for companies.

And motor-cycle users, registered or not, will have their fines waived until December 31 (2007 presumably).

I'm more convinced than ever that the Monty Python team are involved in writing statements & policy for the RTA.

It's a bureaucratic nightmare in the making so I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this stuff-up.

I know you think I'm making this up but I swear it's true. You can read the full original reports in Gulf News here and here.

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