Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On reflection

So the rumour that I heard on Dubai Eye’s Business Breakfast on Monday morning may have some basis in fact. I searched in vain for any information pertaining to Dubai Eye’s one-line news report that reflective paint on cars was to be banned. And a day later, here is the Gulf News’ version of the story. I wonder how the radio station got it a day earlier?

“Abu Dhabi: The interior ministry is considering banning excessive window tints and reflective paint on cars, officials have said.”


“Until now, those wanting excessive tints require special permission from the traffic department. But if the new proposal is approved the department will stop issuing such permission. Also, those who were earlier given permission will have to get their tints removed.”

And also

“'According to the regulations, drivers have to consult the relevant licensing authorities before using any such paint and stickers on their vehicles,' said Colonel Gaith Al Za'abi, who heads the traffic department at the ministry.”

That’ll go down well. Someone fancies a really dark “I’m a mafia wannabe” tint and trundles along to the traffic department. He waves his wasta wand and gets permission to paste expensive, top-quality, heat-rejecting opaque black wallpaper all over the windows of his Mercedes and is a happy bunny. Only to be told a while later that there has been a clarification and the rules have now changed. The law, like his windows, isn’t exactly transparent. I forecast disappointment, pouting, and further waves of the wasta wand.

But it’s not difficult to see why ludicrously dark tints are a matter for concern. According to last Monday’s National, “…Abu Dhabi Police citing overly tinted windows as the fourth biggest cause of accidents in the emirate…” suggests that something ought to be done, yet forbidding excessive tinting from the outset, regardless of vehicle, passport or parentage seems to have eluded the decision makers. And a dark tint makes it impossible to enforce seatbelt and mobile phone legislation.

What confuses me is the Gulf News story appears to have lumped stickers and reflective paint in with this window tinting issue. Is it OK for your car to be dressed up like it’s about to do the Desert Challenge? Will participants of the Gulf News Fun Drive be prosecuted for displaying numbers on their doors? Is the AAA Service Center to be prosecuted for putting a logo in the bottom corner of every customer’s rear window? I do know that an Emirati friend was ordered to remove all self-adhesive stickers from the rear of his Patrol last time he went to get it registered in Dubai, and not just from the rear window. Apparently, plastering the windows with advertising banners is an impediment to visibility, and an overzealous inspector extended this to “All stickers”.

Salik tag excluded, of course. Also excluded are larger-than-life mugshots of Sheikh Mo and co., and massive adverts all over bus windows.

What of reflective paint? Is this the 100% reflective metallic window tinting, or is it, as Dubai Eye mentioned, the same retroreflective film that is used on traffic signs?

If the latter, we have the ridiculous situation of legislation being considered that would effectively outlaw drivers’ attempts to improve conspicuity. There is a reason why emergency vehicles are almost always emblazoned with reflective striping or in extreme cases a yellow and blue Battenburg pattern. There is also a reason why motorcycling apparel frequently comes with fluorescent or reflective panels. Yet the Ministry of the Interior appears to be planning to outlaw this particular contribution to road safety. Am I to understand that I should remove the white reflective pinstriping from my black motorcycle and render it even more invisible?

What comes next? Perhaps the ban on headlights should be extended to include all vehicles, and not be limited only to bicycles.



unJane said...

Nothing will ever be fully enforced and unless and until an active police force visibly pulls motorists over for ticketing there will never be an improvement in driving standards.

Seabee said...

Stand by for a clarification from an 'official' tomorrow.


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