Proposed new federal traffic laws target distracted drivers across the UAE

UAE’s Federal Traffic Council recently debated major changes to traffic laws that, if approved by the Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Cabinet, will result in stiff fines for distracted drivers.

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DUBAI // There is no law against wearing sunglasses while driving at night, putting your make-up on or sending a text message at the wheel – but that is about to change.

A specific offence of driving while distracted is among a raft of amendments to the law being proposed by the Federal Traffic Council.

“It used to be the law a long time ago, but it was deleted. Now we want to bring it back,” said council chief Gen Mohammed Al Zafeen, who is also head of the Dubai Police traffic department. “We want to educate motorists.”

Many drivers knew there was nothing in the law to stop them “when they put their make-up on or when they put their ghutra on” at the wheel, Gen Al Zafeen said.

This could be dealt with by a charge of reckless driving, he said, but the law should identify such behaviour more explicitly, in part to educate drivers that it was unacceptable.

The council also wants to end the anomaly whereby using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is an offence, but sending a text message is not.

Fines for the proposed new offence are still being discussed. “Maybe Dh400, maybe Dh500, maybe Dh1,000, it’s not yet decided,” he said.

Gen Al Zafeen also wants the seat-belt law amended to apply to all passengers, not just those in the front seats.

“The change is that everybody has to be buckled, even those who sit in the back seat. Our goal is to reduce the traffic fatalities on the road by 2021,” Gen Al Zafeen.

“In order to do that, we have to address all the aspects that would lead to casualties. And, needless to say, not buckling up while sitting in the back seat, they are adding to the problem. Many people lose their lives because of not buckling.”

Fines for driving at more than 60kph above the speed limit may also double from Dh1,000 to Dh2,000.

Gen Al Zafeen is also urging that the amount by which drivers are allowed to exceed the speed limit before being fined should be 20kph in all seven emirates.

“Because some traffic departments, they only give five or 10, so we want this to be all over the emirates, one law,” he said.

He conceded that the speeding law was generous, but “for the time being, everybody is used to this, it takes so much time to change this.

“I’m not saying that it won’t be changed, but at least let’s unify it. Let’s take this as the first step. I mean we couldn’t change when we are not united, we have to unite on this then we can discuss whether it’s good or not.”

The proposed changes to the law must be approved by the Ministry of the Interior and the federal Cabinet.

“The issue is we don’t want to fine people – it’s not that we want their money – the issue is we want to educate them. Part of the education is giving tickets,” Gen Al Zafeen said.