Dubai and the United Arab Emirates is a booming destination of work for many expatriates and citizens. In a 2019 survey conducted by Mister Auto, wherein over 100 cities had participated, Dubai was adjudged as the second-best city in the world. Several factors were taken into consideration- Road Congestion, Air quality, Road Safety, Petrol Costs and Annual Road Tax among others. Dubai scored a whopping 97.78 points out of total 100. The factors contributing towards this nearly perfect score was the low annual tax, good road quality and reasonable petrol prices.
Dubai traffic laws are of comparatively recent origin with the first one. The Federal Law No.21, 1995 slays down the substantive aspects of driving a motor vehicle in the United Arab Emirates and obtaining a valid license for the same.
United Arab Emirates is often lauded for its strict and deterrent approach on driving regulations. In case of motor vehicle related offences, police vigilance is adequate and the fines levied are heavy.
While obtaining a driving license in the country has a comprehensive procedure, the same goes a long way in ensuring the safety and security of all those utilizing road transport. First and foremost, when applying for a driving license, one needs to be eligible for obtaining the same. There are certain criteria set out for determining the eligibility of the candidate applying for the driving license.
The simplest categories for eligibility can be drawn out of the age of the applicant and the motor vehicle he/she wishes to drive. These are the requirements as stated below:
- 17 years of age- Motor vehicles or motorcycles for persons with special needs
- 18 years of age- Cars and Light Vehicles
- 20 years of age- Trucks and Heavy Motor Vehicles
- 21 years of age- Buses
Moreover, at the time of application, the applicant needs to be medically fit and certificate for same must be obtained from a government physician or a physician approved by the Licensing Authority. Eyeglasses or lenses used for rectifying eyesight are permitted in fitness tests, however, the same needs to present in the medical test report awarded by the physician. Other than that, the applicant also needs to pass ‘driving tests’ as required by the Road Transport Authority.
With the rise of foreigners in the region and subsequent economic progress attained by UAE, there is significant demand for immigration which begs the next question:
Can one drive a motor vehicle in UAE with a foreign driving license?
No, but under certain conditions the foreign license can be presented for the immediate issuance of a local driving license. The license granted by the foreign country must be valid and the concerned country must be part of the list of countries exempted from undergoing the regular procedure of issuance of driving license. The Licensing Authority can grant a driving license to these persons without undergoing the driving test. This exemption was introduced in 2007 and the list of such countries under exemption from regular procedure are:
Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) Countries, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and The United States of America.
In case the applicant has a valid driving license from any of the countries mentioned above, he/she must obtain an Arabic translation of the foreign license from an official typing or translation centre. Next, the Licensing Authority has to be approached with the required documents (documents vary in different regions of the country). After the successful conduction of an eyesight test, the foreign driving license can be exchanged for a local one.
Summing up the procedures outlined till this point, obtaining a driving license in UAE involves these 4 steps:
- Opening a traffic file in one of the registered driving centres in the related emirate
- Conducting an eye test at any centre approved by the traffic department
- Completing all required driving classes
- Passing all tests set by the related traffic department
- Obtaining the driving licence from the traffic authority
Period of Validity of Driving License:
After the initial issuance of a driving license, to a person who is ABOVE the age of 21 years, the same shall be valid for a period of 2 years for citizens, non-citizens and those who bear nationality of any of the GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) countries. After two years, this license can be renewed. This new license shall have a validity for a period of 5 years for non-citizens and/or residents but a validity of 10 years for citizens of UAE as well as other GCC countries.
For persons elow the age of 21 years, the driving license shall have to be renewed after a period of one year (probation) regardless of nationality of the license-holder.
Important Legal Provisions:
After obtaining a driving license, subsequent concerns about traffic rules and other such regulations are natural. Some of the important regulations and associated penalties are listed below:
The driver of a car can be fined 400 AED if all occupants of the car are not wearing a seat-belt. This includes persons seated in the rear as well as the front seats. Children up to 4 years of age should be strapped into a safety-seat made specifically for young children and those below 10 years of age cannot occupy the front passenger seat of the car. Any person who occupies the passenger seat should not be below 145 cm and 10 years of age.
The maximum penalty that can be collected for violation of any of these regulations is 400 AED.
Reckless driving includes endangering the lives of others, blocking traffic, sudden changing of direction, driving without a number plate, jumping signals and others.
Such acts shall be penalised with 2000 AED, 23 black points and impoundment of vehicle for 60 days.
For motorcyclists and motorists, the penalty for contravening traffic signals is 1000 AED along with seizure of vehicles for 1 month and 12 black points.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance shall be penalised with suspension of driving license for a period of one year. The amount of fine to be paid or any jail sentence to be served is up to the discretion of the court.
While obtaining a driving license in the United Arab Emirates is a process which is thoroughly regulated, the same procedures contribute to enhanced road safety. As can be seen through the plethora of legislations that have been enforced to ensure security of vehicles and persons, one needs to be extremely cautious of the law when driving a vehicle in the country. For the same objective, this article has attempted to bring to you, in a simple yet comprehensive manner, the legal processes needed to obtain a driving license in the UAE.
By Aarya Nargunde
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