Teen driving in UAE raises alarm among residents


Residents have raised their concerns, calling on authorities, parents and everyone in the community to work together to curb the “alarming trend”.

Warnings about the danger of teen driving rang out across communities, following a recent tragedy that involved a 17-year-old who drove his family’s 4WD without a licence and caused an accident that killed his mother.

Residents have raised their concerns, calling on authorities, parents and everyone in the community to work together to curb the “alarming trend”.

Kathrina Baguyo, a 21-year-old Filipina expat, knows very well how young irresponsible drivers can cause serious accidents – because it happened to her family once.

“My eldest sister and brother once met with a massive accident. An underage motorist driving at a speed of 140kmph on a 40kmph road hit their car.

“The vehicle flipped, and the front seat was completely flattened. But thank God no one was injured at all,” recalled Baguyo.

Such incidents are “very traumatic”, and these show how everyone must exercise extra caution in giving the wheel to a teenager, Baguyo said.

Tanjin Sikder, an IT student, is aware that unauthorised driving can be ‘extremely dangerous’ for teenagers like her.

“They are not yet mentally ready, and have not received the right training to take the wheel like eligible drivers. This absolutely increases the chances of accidents,” said the 17-year-old who hails from Bangladesh.

What numbers say

Studies have shown that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among people aged 15-20 in most countries. Teens, aged 16-19, are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than drivers over 20, especially in their first year behind the wheel.

Statistics from the Dubai Police and Abu Dhabi Police show that more than 50 per cent of road traffic accidents and fatalities go to the account of young drivers and novice driving licence-holders (0-5 years of permit holding).

A total of 17 road accidents involving underage drivers were recorded in the Capital between January and June 2018. The Abu Dhabi Police also issued a safety warning to parents who allowed their children to get behind the wheel, after 342 underage drivers were arrested in that six- month period.

In Ras Al Khaimah, recent figures showed that some 580 road accidents were attributed to unlicensed drivers within a 15-month period, and most of those involved were young people, according to Col Ahmad Al Sam Al Naqbi, director of the traffic and patrols department of the Ras Al Khaimah Police.

Authorities in the emirate have also nabbed 209 drivers – mostly students – for driving without a licence. Many of them have been caught speeding.

“As per Article 51 of the Federal Traffic Law, a three-year jail term and/or a fine not less than Dh5,000 shall be slapped against anyone involved in driving a car without being licensed,” Col Al Naqbi said earlier this year.

Raising awareness

Archie Tim Cabigas Corre, a 20-year-old university student, underscored that the lack of licence is not the only issue. “The skills, knowledge and driving experience are also crucial.”

Corre suggested that cars can be equipped with a smart card reader that allows only licensed drivers to start the vehicle.

“The best way is to educate the youth as early as possible and make them aware of the risks associated with driving. They should also know the skills and legal documents that are required to drive a car legally.”

Traffic and patrol departments across the UAE have run several campaigns to spread awareness about the serious impact of such a dangerous violation.

“The campaigns, targeting young men and teenagers, aimed to ensure their safety and protect road users,” said Col Al Naqbi.

Thousands of brochures in Arabic, English and Urdu have been distributed, on top of
social media drives and other advisories.

Role of parents

Residents also believe that curbing dangerous teen driving is not the sole responsibility of authorities. Parents, they said, have a crucial role to play, too.

Umer Farook, a 38-year-old Web developer, said: “Parents or guardians should not allow their teenage kids to drive. This is extremely dangerous, and many people have been either killed or badly hurt in road accidents involving underage drivers.”

Farook, a Pakistani expat who lives in Ajman, added that adults supervising teens should be held equally responsible and must face the same penalties.

Sharing the same sentiment, Abdulaziz Hilal, a 19-year-old Syrian student of Ajman University, said parents should always keep an eye on their children.

“Parents who willingly provide their teenagers with cars and the teenagers who don’t recognise the severity of their actions should face legal action,” Hilal added.

For 22-year-old student Ahmad Hisham, underage driving should be considered a crime and not just a regular traffic violation.

“Tougher penalties should be enforced to prevent teenagers from getting themselves involved in this illegal practice,” he said.

“It is also advisable to develop teenagers’ awareness, while parents are urged to better control their children’s actions.”

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