UAE motorists back bid to ban new drivers from roads at night

Calls follow recent UK proposals to introduce graduated licensing for novice motorists

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 23 2019. Zeina Saleh by her friend’s car.  Photo: Reem Mohammed / The National
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Motorists have called for restrictions to be placed on new drivers to reduce the number of accidents across the country.

The UK government announced last week that it was considering a curfew for inexperienced motorists.

The National spoke to experienced UAE drivers who felt that a similar scheme should be adopted here – but they clashed with new drivers who felt that restrictions based on age and experience were unfair.

Currently there are no restrictions on new drivers on UAE roads.

"The UAE should introduce a graduated licence system like they did in Canada," said Shaun Shulba, 46, who worked as a paramedic in Canada before moving to the Emirates 17 years ago.

"I lived there when they introduced it and there was an immediate drop in road accident figures.

"Part of the conditions were new drivers had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian and they were not allowed to drive after dusk."

He said the limits placed on young drivers who had just qualified did not stop there.

"Their licence would be immediately be suspended until they reached the age of 21 if they broke those rules," he said.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 23 2019. Zeina Saleh by her friend’s car.  Photo: Reem Mohammed / The National
Zeina Saleh, 20, is against the idea of a curfew for new drivers. Reem Mohammed / The National

“The UAE should definitely consider bringing in restrictions like that.”

Under the recent British proposals, new drivers would not be allowed on the roads in the dark, regardless of age, in the months after passing their test.

The UK Department of Transport also recommended that new motorists be prohibited from driving with passengers under a certain age.

A number of graduated licensing schemes are already in operation around the world, including New York and California in the US, New South Wales and Victoria in Australia and Ontario and British Columbia in Canada, as well as across Sweden.

Another Dubai resident urged the UAE to introduce measures to help newly qualified drivers adapt to driving across the Emirates.

“In New Zealand, everyone has to go on a defensive driving course and if their violations mount up they have to do another course,” said Stephanie Harb.

“I constantly see drivers here who could do with this and they are not always young motorists either.”

Earlier this month, the Federal Traffic Council announced that it was considering making motorists under the age of 21 have their cars fitted with a recording device to monitor their driving.

The technology would measure drivers' overall performance and record speed, their use of indicators and how hard they brake.

Newly qualified drivers, naturally, felt the curfew was unfair.

“I don’t think a curfew is a good idea because it restricts us from the freedom of driving after a really long and arduous process to get a driving licence,” said Zeina Saleh, 20, student at the University of Sharjah.

“The process is already rigorous and it ensures that you have reached a good standard to drive on the roads here.

“Applying this concept will just make the process longer and harder.”

The Egyptian said it was other drivers who were creating problems on UAE roads with their bad behaviour.

“The biggest difficulty I face is that people aren’t patient and don’t take into consideration that others on the road may not be as experienced as them,” she said.

“When people flash their lights at me, to move out of the way, it stresses me out.”

However, Majed Samra, 17, who is in the process of getting her licence, felt a curfew is viable.

“If new drivers were out at 1am when the streets are empty, they may get overconfident and drive at high speed for the fun of it, resulting in a bad accident,” said the student from Gems Cambridge International School, Abu Dhabi.