Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ignorance isn't bliss

People rarely get pulled over for speeding in the UAE. They certainly do speed, but the government has devised a system of cameras (some hidden; some not) and radar sensors throughout the roadways as the primary means of catching guilty parties. When someone is speeding through one of these traps, the camera takes a picture of the license plate and the information gets sent directly to the Traffic Department, who in turn notifies the offender by text message that they’ve been caught red-handed. Sounds pretty high-tech and efficient, huh?

Sam and I decided not to buy a car when we arrived but to get a long-term rental instead. When we picked up our rental car last fall, one of the perks the Hertz agent pointed out to us was that if we received a speeding ticket Hertz would be notified and would pay it immediately and then just bill us for it later. This way we wouldn’t have to deal with going down to the traffic department headquarters, waiting in line, coming up with the money right away, etc. Sounds pretty convenient, huh?

But here is where process begins defeating purpose. Since we don’t physically get pulled over, thus imprinting the fear and shame associated with speeding as well as the mental note never to speed in that spot again, and because our rental agency intercepts the automatic notification when the camera-cops capture our indiscretions, we can actually go months without knowing we were breaking the law, much less being punished for it. And forget about disputing a ticket -- Do you remember exactly where you were driving and how fast you were going at 5:12 pm on December 8th? Maybe you’ll remember 1:19 pm on December 25th, but how about 12:59 pm on January 22nd? Does 11:51 am on January 30th ring any bells?

Well, apparently it should for us. Last week while at Hertz to re-up our lease, I learned that Sam and I have racked up four speeding tickets on the dates listed above -- count ‘em: 1-2-3-4, in 6 months!! [By the way, lest you fear driving with us in the future, before moving here Sam and I had a combined total of 2 speeding tickets throughout our entire driving careers]. When I all but jumped across the counter to wring the messenger’s neck, he apologetically handed me a printout of our infractions, which simply lists the date, time, and amount of each fine. It doesn’t even give the address of the alleged speeding!

Though the sight makes my stomach sink, I think I actually prefer the cold, hard certainty of flashing red lights in the rear-view mirror.


  1. I would find this very difficult, too. I'm so sorry for you guys!

  2. And what about March 8th on our way from Al Ain to the Abu Dhabi airport? So sorry to hear about those incidents catching up with you. I can't help but wonder if the fines will eat up your additional tax savings you discovered.

  3. Ahh! Always something to learn and get used to, no?