Fined some discretion

When it comes down to it, this post could easily be classed as a classic blog whinge, but I do think there are some valid points amongst the general indignation.

I appreciate that every driver on the road things he is better than everyone else. I do think that Mrs Saul and I, having learnt to drive in the UK and having had an accident free 8 years or so in Dubtown, class as safe, law abiding drivers. We don’t tailgate, push into queues, wonder what indicators are for, honk our horn constantly and generally endanger other people’s lives.

Despite that, since renewing her car registration at the end of Feb, Mrs Saul has already accrued 1,000Dhs’ worth of fines ($272).

One fine was for speeding – speeding, that is on the on-ramp to a motorway. I’m not sure what is being encouraged here – should drivers amble on to the motorway at 60Kmph and endanger the lives of people barreling along at 120Kmph?

The second fine was for ‘changing lanes’. When leaving Dubai airport’s Terminal 3, confusing signposting lead to Mrs Saul needing to blend into traffic on the right so that she could head off in the correct direction instead of being forced to drive off for hours in the wrong direction – a common problem in Dubai, where confusing signposting and unusual road layouts can easily leave you stranded on a one way journey up to Abu Dhabi.

Whilst changing lanes, Mrs Saul indicated, slowed down, blended safely into the traffic and caused no danger whatsoever to anyone. Despite this, she was pulled over by a traffic policeman and given a 400Dh fine. Apparently ‘changing lanes’ in certain situations is not allowed – not that there were any signs informing people that that was the case or that this information is generally made public.

I salute the wisdom and foresight of the Traffic Police. I acknowledge that they have a tough job to do and applaud what appears to be a genuine crackdown on bad driving at the moment. I do feel, however, that the current approach is punishing law-abiding motorists whilst bad driving is still abundantly evident all over Dubai. There is a fine balance between dissuasion and punishment and a revenue generation system – I am concerned that that balance is tipping in the wrong direction.

A quick straw poll amongst other law abiding motorist friends reveals everyone has all sorts of inexplicable fines and has been caught out by hidden cameras at some point, usually when doing 130Kmph on an empty desert road, or 100Kmph on a road that always used to have that speed as its limit, but which was randomly designated as an 80Kmph area with no clear signposting. Despite all these punishments being meted out, the usual commute down the Sheikh Zayed Road remains as fraught with danger as ever, with no errant drivers I see ever being pulled over. So, you have a load of safe drivers bemused by hefty fines, whilst the usual bad driving continues apace. This is surely not the intention of the current crackdown.

Let’s say Mrs Saul did break the law. Fair enough. A quick check of her record would have revealed that she is not a habitual breaker of road rules. A simple admonishment, even in broken English, would have been enough to get the message across that you can’t change lanes in those sorts of situations, even if you’re completely lost. She would have driven off happy that she hadn’t been fined and prepared, in future, to end up on the one-way trip to Abu Dhabi if she leaves it too late to change lane in future. Happy resident, up to date with the rules. If her record had showed she was a regularly fined nutcase-on-wheels, another ticket would have been perfectly appropriate.

Instead, we’re both furious at being fined for a situation where noone was placed in danger and where the rules weren’t clear. Meanwhile, on my daily route to the office, tinted Land Cruisers regularly and dangerously shove their way in to my lane at the last minute with complete impunity and not a policeman in sight.

I hope that over the coming months the excellent job done by the Police involves a bit more discretion and focuses less on dishing out fines left right and centre and more on proactive road management with a degree of discretion.


One Response to “Fined some discretion”

  1. Sam Dubai Says:

    I see it as a new tax. remember the two bucket for each expat theory? guess just a bit more brown stuff in one of the buckets now. still beats 50% top income tax bracket. I agree with you it is difficult to stay calm on the roads with a western driving education.

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