UAE drivers: New minimum age for licence to get green light?
Hold on tight: Deciding the legal driving age in the UAE has endured many twists and turns. Here's the latest.
March 20, 2013 3:29 by Muhammad Aldalou
In early 2009, the World Health Organisation revealed that the UAE’s roads were among the most dangerous in the world. And both Sheikh Zayed and Emirates roads had long (even at the time) been dubbed as being the country’s biggest deathtraps. It certainly wouldn’t have been too difficult to believe, because road accidents had claimed the lives of 1,071 people the year before – and injured 12,273.
At the time, Salah Bu Farousha, head of Dubai Traffic Prosecution, insisted that the minimum age to obtain a driving licence should be raised from 18 to 21 years. He added that there were a “disproportionate” number of fatal crashes involving young Emirati and expatriate drivers. “Raising the age to 21 is necessary because the motorist would be more mature. Teenagers can use public transport until they can be trusted to get behind the wheel,” he added.
All in all, the idea was raised because most people agreed it would make the roads much safer. In fact, in September ’09, Arabian Business conducted its own internal poll, which found that 80 percent of respondents fully supported raising the age limit.
A month later, The National reported that Major General Mohammad Al Zafein, director of the Dubai Police traffic department, believed the minimum age to legally drive should be lowered from 18 to 16 – but he emphasised that this should only be possible after the child has received at least 100 hours’ practical training. The change would help solve the problem of untrained, underage teenagers getting behind the wheel illegally, he said at the time.
In March 2010, after months of discussions and studies, traffic officials in the UAE made a final and evidently unanimous ruling that 18 is in fact the perfect and most convenient legal age for driving. As an alternative option, a sample model was presented to them by experts from the European Association for Driving Schools, whereby a 17-year-old would be able to drive, as long as they’re accompanied by an adult over 30.
An officer from Abu Dhabi traffic police argued against it, pointing out that should there be an accident, two lives would be claimed instead of one.
And, finally, that brings us to the present day. This week, the Ministry of Interior has announced that it is now considering lowering the legal age for driving (legally, that is) in the emirates to ‘accommodate the needs of families that rely on their under-18 children to run daily errands’.
Of course, there will be certain prerequisites, including (and hopefully not limited to) setting up speed-monitoring systems to make sure these young drivers aren’t breaking the speed limit or being negligent, and a few other safety requirements that will be more elaborately discussed in the future.
Kipp wonders whether these discussions will ever amount to anything. The UAE has mixed feelings about this subject, to say the least. First it was raising the age, then lowering it, and then keeping it the same. Now they’ve decided that it’s time to consider lowering it again. In the past, there may have been many propositions, debates and discussions, but they’ve never materialised. Why should it be any different this time?