Abu Dhabi: Recent talks about a possible decrease in the legal driving age in the emirate of Abu Dhabi have become a cause for much concern among parents in the capital. The Policies and Strategies Council at the Ministry of Interior is discussing a draft law, which may lower the legal driving age, as reported by Gulf News earlier this month.
According to the Council, such a move will allow those under 18 years of age to perform household chores for their parents when needed. Within the framework of the law, those below 18 would only be allowed to drive in the presence of a chaperone who is well over the legal driving age, and they would only be permitted to drive vehicles with speed limiters that prevent vehicles from being driven over a certain speed, besides serving to record and monitor driving speeds.
Parents have also expressed scepticism about how well the speed limiters will function in controlling the speeds of minors who obtain a licence. Sultan Al Mazroui, an Emirati government employee and father-of-two, shared his concerns with told Gulf News. “If they cannot drive their own car, they will borrow a friend’s car or they will find a way to rent one. These rules are not a guarantee that they will drive safely. The police has already implemented many strict rules in an attempt to limit the number of accidents but those under 18 do not have the maturity or awareness to understand the severity of their actions and the consequences they have,” he said.
Umm Taher, a Yemeni mother, said she does not yet allow her 21-year-old daughter to go on long road trips. “My daughter recently got her licence and I feel she is not ready to protect herself against the mistakes of other drivers on the road. This is something that you acquire only with many years of driving experience,” she said. “As soon as children get a licence, they begin asking their parents for a car and many mothers and fathers comply with this demand. So I do not think that passing this draft law will fulfil the primary purpose it is intended for, which is to help ease with household chores, because it will only give more room for demands and increase the number of vehicles on the road,” she told Gulf News.
Maggy Al Gawly echoed Umm Taher’s concerns, adding that traffic regulations must be made stricter to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities before allowing younger people to drive. Road accidents are considered the sixth most common cause of death across the region, according to statistics released earlier by the Emirates Motor Company (EMC). Additionally, those aged 15-25 are the one category most affected by traffic accidents, the statistics revealed. “Teenagers with licences pose a huge difficulty for insurance companies. We are very hesitant in providing youngsters with insurance because of their reputation in driving recklessly and causing accidents,” Abdul Karim Jadallah, an insurance broker at a local insurance company said.