Abu Dhabi: A British expat walking to his apartment in Khalifah Street in the Capital, was nearly run over by a car last week. As he turned around to look at the driver, he was in for a bigger shock.
“It was a young child of eight years, sitting on the driver’s knee and steering the car. Both seemed unfazed by the potential risk they posed to me or anyone on the road for that matter. I managed to note the car’s registration number just before they sped away and have reported it to the police,” he said.
While there are strict laws and safety rules on underage driving, residents claim it is not unusual to see children behind the wheel.
An Indian expat recalled an incident at a traffic signal on Airport Road. “There was loud music blaring from an SUV in the adjoining lane. Out of curiosity, I stole a glance at the car. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the person in the driving seat was a child who looked barely 12 years old. There was another child of the same age in the passenger seat. Both were grooving to the music. There were no adults in the car,” he said.
As many as 866 people were caught driving without licences in Abu Dhabi last year.
Abu Dhabi police has repeatedly warned that parents who allow underage children (below 18) to drive hence - endangering the lives of their children and others - will be held accountable under the juvenile delinquency law.
Violators can face penalties, including a maximum prison sentence of three months and/or a minimum Dh5,000 fine.
A few years ago, Abu Dhabi Police reportedly arrested 113 people, mostly teenage boys, for driving without licences. Most were either given cars by their families or had taken vehicles from relatives without permission for a drive, according to a police report.
Abu Dhabi Police recently announced plans to tighten supervision in the capital’s streets, especially in residential areas to check underage driving.
Residents said underage driving was a clear and present danger and should be addressed immediately.
What should be done to curb underage driving?
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-The writer is an Abu Dhabi-based freelance journalist