In the year 2018

In the year 2018, traffic accidents have become an epidemic all over the world. There is an ongoing debate about minimizing accidents: advocates around the world are calling for a complete abolishment of young drivers. What these proponents are failing to see, is the elephant in the room. It is, in my opinion, one of the least progressive movements in the 21st century. In the United Arab Emirates, motorists who are below 18 should be allowed on the roads as they are just as capable and responsible as older drivers provided there are standardized tests and rules across the UAE for all the drivers and all cars are road worthy according to the guidelines laid out by the RTA (Roads and Transport Authority).

A number of teens in high school partake in extra-curricular activities that often take place after school, whilst university students often remain on campus for extended periods of time to make use of the library and study. Parents are expected to pick and drop them off. Unfortunately, their timings often clash with parents’ busy schedule. With so many parents in the workforce, it has become increasingly impossible to meet these needs. Some parents have resorted to hiring drivers to chauffeur their offspring. Others propose the use of public transportation; however, these options are not always a safe, reliable and cost-effective solution.

A certain John Doe said, I quote: “I’m 17 and I need to get to my university which is really far from my home and taxi is not an option since I would have to pay 100 Dirhams per day and my parents can’t drive me because they have work to do so I end up taking the bus and arriving late to my university! The bus ride takes as long as 2 hours! I need more time to focus on my studies and a car would definitely help me!”. With classes five times per week over a month totals to a cool 2000 dirhams – more than enough to pay a brand-new car’s monthly installment. Providing many John Doe’s across the UAE with the opportunity to drive would give them a comfortable, stress-free life with unbridled independence.

The director of Dubai Police’s Traffic Department, Major General Mohammad Saif Al Zafein, recommended the UAE legal driving age be lowered to 16 after a study concluded the roads would be safer with the presence of younger drivers. In 2011, a car pile-up that involved 127 cars on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway rocked the nation, with the MOI (Ministry of Interior) later announcing that 63% of traffic accidents and violations were caused by people within the 18-35 age range. But no one seems to be acknowledging and taking accountability for the real causes behind road accidents in UAE; the fog, heat and rain are not solely at fault.

According to a poll conducted by Gulf News, only 13% of participants supported under 18s to be allowed to drive. I have seen traffic violators and they are not teenagers nor are they 16. Most 16-year old teens are more mature compared to those of previous generations; they are expected to fulfil a myriad of responsibilities such as keeping good grades, helping siblings with school work and other adult expectations not limited to being organized and having a part-time job. Therefore, it is only reasonable and logical that they should be permitted to drive. Having said that, teens will have more time and energy to study rather than spending hours on school buses.

Critics of the young driver proposal often cite the consequential endangerment facing young motorists is their lack of skill – attributed to their driving for a relatively short period of time. All Formula One race drivers have driven for a long time before turning to efficient drivers. So why hold them back from starting early. With Ahmad Hashim Behroozian’s, CEO of the Licensing Agency at the Dubai RTA, focus on ensuring that the drivers in UAE are on par with their international counterparts, new regulations have been implemented including standardized testing and a rigorous driving curriculum. These will, without a shadow of doubt, be beneficial to young drivers.

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Other critics claim the minds of 16-year-olds are still young, hence need more time to develop and make a good decision. Yes, some situations will require drivers to think on their feet, but history has proven this is not always the case with adults. Stressful lives led by adults often delays their reaction times. Another factor that needs to be taken into consideration is the number of motorists, all of whom are older than 16, driving under the influence of alcohol and sometimes drugs. This poses a reckless endangerment to all, whereas the number of drivers, aged 16 and under the influence of alcohol is dramatically lower.

Meanwhile in the United States, veteran driver’s license instructors are skeptical about raising the legal driving age. Brent Johnston, a driving instructor in Illinois, said, I quote: “That’s like saying we’re not going to let any kid get near a pool or lake or the ocean and the drownings will go down. I think Illinois has gone the proper way—reward the kids who do a nice job and penalize the kids who don’t. The teen driving issues are not about age and maturity as much as they are about making good choices and demonstrating exceptional behavior, whether they start that driving experience at 16, 17 or 18.”

Huda Al Baqali feels that being an adult does not determine that one can be good driver. She feels that even if one is a seasoned professional race driver, there is no assurance that he will be cautious. Some adults are distracted whilst driving; they text, make calls or take selfies. And it is often the older drivers who participate in illegal car races. Huda emphasized that driving will help prepare 16-year-olds for the future. I believe that allowing 16-year-olds to drive will provide youngsters with the learning curve and opportunity to be law-abiding residents. This is a critical skill that extends to all spheres in life as one needs to exercise self-discipline at all times.

Zibah Fairooz Bari adds, I quote: “I agree that there is no guarantee that being older makes you a safe driver because it actually depends on the person who’s driving. Getting a driving license is not difficult but being a safe driver is a bigger concern because in Dubai, a lot of accidents are occurring due to reckless driving. I think it depends on the driver because if the driver is careful, he or she will drive safely. If the driver is careful, then there should be no objection from anyone on giving them a license at the age of 16.”

In conclusion, with a driver’s license comes a sense of responsibility. Young drivers should go over rules, car maintenance, and the importance of responsibility while driving. If a teenager feels obligated to take care of himself, this will give him a sense of self-responsibility and accountability. With that being said, the young driver will look forward to being allowed to drive and will take responsibility seriously. Higher age limits for drivers is not the solution for road traffic accidents, which is why some countries such as the United Kingdom, Iceland, Malaysia, Canada etc., have lowered their legal driving ages.