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18 July 2024

Green light for reduction of UAE driving age to 17

Dubai Traffic Police head, Major General Mohammed Saif Al Zafeen, heads the Federal Traffic Council. (Supplied)

By Bindu Suresh Rai

In a bid to restrict underage driving and motorcycle accidents amongst the UAE’s younger population, the country’s Federal Traffic Council has approved reducing the minimum age limit to obtain a driver’s license to 17 years.

Dubai Traffic Police head, who chairs the FTC, said the move was imperative and in line with the vision to reduce road fatalities to zero by 2020.

Speaking to Emirates 24|7, Major General Mohammad Saif Al Zafeen, head of Dubai Traffic Police and led the FTC decision, said: “The proposal has been sent to the Committee for Strategies and Policies at the Ministry of Interior, which will then decide whether to implement this as a law.”

Talking about the reasoning behind the decision to reduce the legal driving age from 18 years, Al Zafeen explained: “We are looking at this decision in positive light. Those aged 17 and 18 years are studying in universities and many don’t have drivers or the means to pay for public transportation on a daily basis to shuttle them around.

“These people either take to riding motorcycles or get behind the car’s wheel illegally and without the sufficient education and experience needed.

“If we legalise a reduction in the driving age, we are in short, reducing the incidences of accidents that may occur due to inexperience or illegal means.”

When quizzed if the influx of more drivers on the road would simply add to the chaos of cities already heaving under the weight of daily traffic gridlock, prompting some public figures to even suggest restricting the number of cars on the roads, Al Zafeen strongly debated his stance.

“I strongly disagree with any drastic reaction to curbing traffic on the roads by policing cars; and why are we only looking at the dark side of this initiative,” he asked.

“In countries such as the US, the minimum age for driving is 16 and above. Look at it from the perspective that we are reducing the menace of two-wheelers on roads that are a big cause of road accidents.

“We are going to train these individuals in obtaining a licence and the influx of these new drivers will not cripple our traffic conditions in any way.

“In fact, many locals here start driving as early as 13 years of age. They are already taking to the streets very early. We are simply trying to find ways to legalise this in a basic manner, with training.”

Parents’ react

Parents of teenagers have largely come out to support the proposal if it is initiated into a law in the near future, with Daniel O’Reilly, father of a teenage boy, saying: “Let’s be honest, we all experiment behind the wheel when we are in our teens.

“But the driving conditions here can be so dangerous, I would prefer my son get a formal training on the roads here from an early age that is legal as opposed to sneaking behind our backs and borrowing a friend’s car without permission and landing himself in trouble or worse.”

Manjari Joshi, who is a mother of two teens, says the only reason she is in support of the idea is to stop her son from hopping on a two-wheeler and landing himself in the hospital someday.

“As a mother, I am always worried that my son will be hit by some errant driver who was too busy juggling his phone to check his blind spot or felt the need to rush through an amber light in a bid to get home that extra second early,” she said.

“The number of accidents on the roads is horrifying and young teens on two-wheelers are even more vulnerable out there.

“I think it would be a healthy decision by the authorities to allow them to travel in the relative safety of a car with the right training of course.”

Andrew Yearning, a father of young teenage daughter, took a more neutral stance, saying: “Agreed, reducing the driving age limit has its advantages, but the authorities need to ensure stringent guidelines are met for their training, along with the possibility of implementing a license on probation for the first few years of passing the driving test, which allows them to suspend the privilege if a certain number of driving laws are broken.”

The FTC is a unified federal entity that meets once every month to discuss traffic and safety issues that with unify the law and procedures across for all of UAE.