Capital auctions off abandoned cars

More than 400 vehicles are to go under the hammer in Abu Dhabi's first public auction.

An abandoned car sits near the Khalidiya area of Abu Dhabi.
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ABU DHABI // More than 400 vehicles will go under the hammer in the capital's first public auction as the city aims to maintain its "distinctive public appearance" by getting rid of unsightly cars.

The vehicles up for auction are just some of the thousands of impounded cars claimed by the municipality over the years for infractions that include being too dirty, or appearing to be abandoned.

The 432 cars that will be auctioned on Sunday at the Bani Yas impound lot were never claimed by their owners.

"The Municipality of Abu Dhabi City has stressed the importance of upholding the distinctive public appearance of Abu Dhabi city and combating the disfiguring elements and all negative practices undermining the public safety and the excellent urban scenery of the city," a municipality official said.

Most of the cars were impounded because they appeared to be abandoned at parking areas, on roadsides or in areas without "enclosures or fences", the municipality said. Vehicles that collect dirt and grime are also subjected to towing, an offence the municipality called "an irresponsible flouting of the community rights".

Cars can be considered abandoned once a municipal inspector notices the vehicle and monitors it for two weeks. After 14 days, the inspector places a sticker on the car, asking it to be moved within 24 hours. If it is not moved, it will be towed.

More than 2,200 cars were seized from November 2009 to June last year. In 2009, a total of 1,595 cars were towed. In 2010, that number jumped to 4,670.

As the number of impounded cars rises, the municipality said it would also amp up its awareness campaign to ensure that residents knew of the regulations.

The municipality official said abandoned cars "threaten the safety of residents, hamper traffic flow, deny the public from exercising their rights to use the parking and roads, and inflict losses on the public properties".

"Such practice is viewed as an encroachment on the public right and is an uncivilised behaviour marring the aesthetic appearance of streets and public squares, let alone being a source of inconvenience to the public and pollution to the environment."

Cars can also be impounded for major traffic infractions, including running a red light or leaving the scene of an accident. Other offences - 13 in total - could result in a tow if the vehicle's owner commits the infraction more than once.

Owners of impounded cars must pay for towing expenses and associated fines, but the municipality did not outline specific costs. The price increases the longer the vehicle is impounded.

Vehicles that are impounded after an exemption offence - for example, speeding or operating a vehicle with unsuitable tyres - can be taken by the municipality for up to two weeks. If the offence is committed a third time, the vehicle can be impounded up to a month.

Although impounding rates are Dh10 a day, vehicle owners can get their cars released early for Dh100 per day if they were impounded for traffic infractions. The municipality will continue to auction off abandoned cars throughout the year.