Drivers are clocking up thousands of dirhams in charges - and in some cases losing their licences - because they are not aware of a change in fines for expired car registrations in Abu Dhabi.
By law, drivers must renew their car’s registration every year in the UAE.
There is a 30-day grace period in order to renew the registration once it has expired, to allow owners to drive their car to the garage for repairs if it fails its inspection – which is also why insurance policies must be 13 months long.
Previously, any delay in renewing the car’s registration after the 30-day grace period resulted in a fee of just Dh10 per month.
The grace period remains, but since April 15, people caught driving a car with an expired registration have been hit with a Dh500 fine and four black points when they pass through new toll gates in the capital. Cars are impounded for seven days.
There are many toll gates around the city, including on Sheikh Zayed Road and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Highway.
They will eventually be used to collect road tolls, in a similar manner to Dubai's Salik system, according to a presidential decree issued in February.
However, since April 15, they have been scanning cars that pass beneath to check whether they are registered.
The system was brought in to improve motorists’ safety by ensuring that all vehicles - which must pass an inspection to be registered - are roadworthy.
In the first two weeks alone after the system was activated, 18,640 vehicles were impounded, according to police.
But two months on, many drivers are still not aware of the changes.
Alistair, a British expatriate, had not heard of the new system, so when his car registration expired in February, he was in no rush to renew it.
And when he did last week, he discovered that he had 16 black points for passing through toll gates, in addition to another eight for running a red light.
“I paid Dh4,300 in charges for my car not to be impounded and Dh3,600 in fines. Annoyingly though, I can’t see on the system how that was calculated, ie: what the exact fees and fines were for each offence,” he said.
Alistair, who asked to remain anonymous, was told by police that offences are capped at one per week, with each offence clocking up four black points – meaning a maximum of 16 per month.
Drivers said police told them that there have been "many cases" in which people have lost their licences as a result.
The National is aware of another case in which a driver is facing a year-long driving ban after amassing 24 black points for driving a car with an expired registration.
Nasser Karby was aware of the introduction of the system, so parked up two of his cars immediately.
“My driver took the family car to renew the registration. It failed because some work had to be done on the car, so he drove it to Mussafah," said Mr Karby, who took part in a discussion on the topic on the Abu Dhabi Q&A Facebook page.
"Now when he went Mussafah, he passed through one of those newly-erected toll gates and the camera took a picture of the car."
Mr Karby, who is from Yemen, received a message saying that he had been given a Dh500 fine, four black points, and his car would be impounded for one week – or he could pay Dh700 to release it.
His second car with an expired registration was transported on a recovery truck to Mussaffah as it was in need of extensive repairs. He received a text message saying he had been fined for that car - which he contested and was let off with after police investigated, as only cars being driven are subject to fines.
“When we went to renew the registration, what we did was we transported both of those vehicles again on a recovery truck and we removed the number plates from the car. We had to remove that. And we made it, we didn’t get any fines for that. As soon as we reached the licence department we put on the number plates again and the vehicles passed.”