Black points traders 'will be prosecuted'

Drivers offer cash to keep licence clean, but motorists who claim someone else was behind the wheel risk fraud charges.

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DUBAI // Motorists who attempt to eliminate their black points by claiming someone else with a clean record was behind the wheel will face prosecution, a top traffic police officer has warned. Major Gen Mohammad al Zafein, the director of the force's traffic department, said police were prepared to review video evidence of the driver caught on camera if there was any suggestion that an attempt to avoid the penalty was being made. "Perpetrators will be accused of swindling and referred to prosecution," said Major al Zafein. "If we get suspicious we will go back to the violation footage to verify who was driving." Motorists in Dubai with lengthy violation records have admitted trading points with those with clean records to avoid the suspension of their driving licences. Major al Zafein said it would not always be easy to catch such violations as it involved an agreement between two parties that could be hard to prove. A black point market, where people with a clean traffic record are selling black points to those who are facing suspension of their driving licence, has emerged recently in Dubai. The average price is Dh100 per black point. Others are taking black points from friends and family. Although Major al Zafein said they had not come across cases of black points being sold he admitted that many people had their black points removed after other people said they were the ones driving their cars. "Very often we have people asking to have their black points removed as some of their family members have been driving the cars," he said. The black points system was introduced across all emirates in January 2007. More than 24 points in a year results in a three-month licence suspension, with the next 24 points bringing a six-month suspension and a third 24 bringing a year's ban. Drivers get four black points for not using a seat belt, and four for failing to leave a safe distance between cars. Overtaking on the hard shoulder earns six points. Black points are eliminated a year from the date they are acquired. The system gives offenders 30 days from the issuance of the fine to verify the offence at the traffic department. A person who claims that he was driving will sign an undertaking that he is the one that committed the violations. "This puts a legal liability on the person," said Major al Zafein. Dubai Police are giving offenders an opportunity to remove up to eight black points from their licence by attending a four-lecture course on road safety. They also have to pay Dh200 per two points to remove the points. However, drivers who have already acquired the 24 points cannot enrol in the course. An Arab national, who spoke on condition of anonymity, had 15 points against her. "I heard that a person is interested in taking some black points in return of money so I got in contact with him and we agreed that I will pay him Dh100 per point. I know that I can have the point waived if I attend a course but this will save me money." A British expatriate who did not wish to be named, said he agreed to take over three black points as a favour for a friend. "We agreed that if for some reason I start getting close to the 24 points he may have to take some from me, but I am a very careful driver." * With additional reporting by Leah Oatway