Sunday, July 08, 2007

That time of the year

Vehicle registration in the UAE can be a mysterious and Byzantine experience. For a completely stock car (which is totally different from a stock-car, but I digress) the annual trip to Tasjeel involves:-

    1. Drop off the car at the drive-in reception.

    2. Sit in the waiting room while the car is inspected. British readers will be familiar with the MOT test, which is very similar to this bit.

    3. When your number is called, pay for the test, accept the inspection report with a 'Pass' stamp and retrieve the car key.

    4. In Sharjah, take the car's fire extinguisher to be inspected, and obtain another 'Pass' stamp.

    5. Wait to be called to a second desk, pay for the new registration card and cough up for all the traffic fines recorded over the preceding year.

At some point in the process, someone will need to check for valid motor insurance. There has to have at least a year left to run, so insurance companies generally provide 13 months' insurance so that it's still OK if the car fails and has to be re-presented.

The Inspection
The fun and games start if the car is modified from standard. The rules concerning spotlights, roof racks, bull bars, after-market bumpers, wide wheels, performance exhausts, superchargers, etc etc vary not only by emirate where the car is registered, but also on the individual inspector, the discretion of his boss, the nationality of the vehicle owner and the phase of the moon. An after-market supercharger, for example, can pass inspection one year and then be forbidden a year later. Spotlights, whether factory-fitted or after-market, are acceptable one minute, illegal the next, and currently OK provided they're presented for inspection with opaque covers. It seems that you can pimp 'n' bling your Hummer as much as you like with no problems because the after-market goodies are all GMC-approved and therefore come with a Liberty Automobiles certification to the effect that 'The owner of the dealership is a VVIP and he says the mods are OK.'

Many of the desert safari tourism firms and a lot of desert-driving individuals like to replace their front bumpers with something with more strength and ground clearance. The original bumpers tend to be very low to the ground. This is fine on asphalt or even tracks, but over the dunes and through wadis the plastic tends to get torn off the car. Driving without bumpers is clearly unacceptable, so modified items are very popular. The trouble is that steel bumpers from ARB or TJM are officially illegal, at least in Sharjah. That is to say the car won't pass inspection with them. The farce is not only that the kit is widely available from car accessories shops all over the emirates, but that there are workshops that will temporarily fit an original bumper specifically for the inspection, and then replace the steel one for the other 364 days of the year. No-one, to the best of my knowledge, has ever been nicked for having dodgy car accessories outside a Tasjeel inspection.

Not wishing to go through the annual rigmarole of removing the Goatmobile's front bumper, I went to Sharjah Traffic Police with a written request for special permission prior to having the modifications done. This was granted, as a result of which the Goatmobile passed with an after-market steel bumper and a lift kit all installed. Although I think I'll give the supercharger a miss.

The fines
I collected an astonishing three parking and two speeding fines last year. This is unprecedented. Parking offences were my failing to get back to the on-street Pay and Display chez Beloved in time to renew the ticket. I got a nice little bill from Dubai RTA for outstaying my welcome by ten minutes each time. A warning to anyone who bumps his car up on to the hardstanding in the Mall of the Emirates multi-storey car park along with the other dozens of cars: It counts as 'Parking on the Footway' even though it isn't a footway, and despite being on private land, is a Dubai Police matter. It might have been nice to leave the ticket on the windscreen; I wasn't even aware that parking in that particular place wasn't allowed until weeks after the event. And a note to the MotE: some 'No Parking' signs wouldn't go amiss.

I'll put my hand up to getting caught by the ubiquitous speed cameras on two occasions. One was a mea culpa moment. The posted limit was 80kph and I got snapped at 108kph. At seven o'clock on a Friday morning on a deserted dead-straight three-lane dual carriageway. But c'est la vie. I am, however, extremely annoyed about the other one. The Sharjah-Kalba road near the Sharjah Institute of Technology is posted 100kph. I saw the camera and the signs, and I checked my speed. I was and I remain astonished that I was busted for 101kph in the 100kph limit. It is futile arguing with anyone at Tasjeel, who are only empowered to take money. Waiving fines would involve a lot of meeting with important police officers and would certainly take more time than the Dh200 that might be saved.

The official behind the counter tried to cheer me up by noting that most people have to pay upwards of Dh 5,000 a year on speeding fines, and some particularly lead-footed characters have recently been billed upwards of Dh 20,000. Thanks. That's great solace.


i*maginate said...

FYI there's also a pick-up service where they collect your car and bring it back to you, doing all the tests without you having to be there.

The reason I don't opt for this service is that I'd need to keep an eye on my car ;)

Anonymous said...

A far cry from 1978, when the ONLY way to pass required a case or two of beer in the boot.

Distant boat-wrangler

J. Edward Tremlett said...

"I was and I remain astonished that I was busted for 101kph in the 100kph limit."

You know, this is not the sort of thing I'm sure you want to hear right now, but I am amazed that I made it through my 7 years in Dubai without a single ticket. And that's because I am almost positive that I got snapped on at least three occasions, but for some reason I never had to pay.

I think I made up for that by being nailed by other drivers while parked ; )

Keefieboy said...

I sold my car the day before I left Dubai. Despite the fact that it had passed its 'MOT' only five weeks previously, a fresh test was required. Only one problem - the car was in Jebel Ali and Tasjeel was due to close in half an hour. A bit of grovelling to the manager solved the problem, at least for me. I really hope the guy who bought it managed to get it through the test and released by the manager on the following Saturday!


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