Illegal taxi drivers in Abu Dhabi to face stiffer penalties

Dated: 24/05/2016

Ramona Ruiz (Abu Dhabi) - The National Newspaper

To stop the trade of illegal taxi drivers, authorities will levy heavier fines and confiscate their vehicles.

The law presently imposes fines between Dh 5,000 and Dh10,000 or a 30-day jail term, or both, on offenders.

But in recent court rulings, illegal drivers have been fined and had their cars seized and auctioned, according to the Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars (TransAD)

Stiffer penalties could help to curb the trade, said Mohammed Al Qamzi, TransAD’s general manager.

He said illegal drivers could continue to work if they only had to pay fines. “Without his car, it would be difficult for him to work. He cannot do anything," said Mr. Al Qamzi.

Illegal drivers could soon face a fine of Dh 30,000 and deportation when a legal amendment takes effect.

“It should be very soon. We need to stop them because 4,000 drivers are being caught every year, and many of them are repeat offenders," said Mr. Al Qamzi.

TransAD has warned the public not to use illegal taxis because they lack safety equipment and may be uninsured.

“Who are these people [the drivers]? We don’t know," Mr. Al Qamzi said.

“If you ride in one of these taxis and you get in an accident and become seriously injured, there’s no insurance for [the illegal taxis] to cover the passengers."

He also warned that customers of illegal drivers would have to spend their own money on medical care should they be injured in a road accident.

In Abu Dhabi, many people, mostly labourers, use illegal taxis because of the lower fares and their availability in remote areas.

Santosh Sadanandan, a 42-year-old Emirates Taxi driver, said a one-way trip to the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi or Musaffah costs about Dh50 to Dh55.

“They can take the bus, which costs Dh4, but it will take them about two hours to reach their destination," he said.

“They would rather share the ride with three other passengers and pay Dh10 each."

Delard Caballero, a 30-year-old Abu Dhabi resident of three years, said he had no choice but to use illegal taxis to take him to his driving school in Musaffah last year.

“It’s cheaper and very convenient for me," he said. “I tried taking a licensed taxi once and it cost me about Dh55."

An illegal driver from Pakistan, who did not wish to be identified, said he charged each passenger Dh10 for a one-way trip to Musaffah and Baniyas.

He declined to reveal his daily income but said he had been hit with a Dh 8,000 fine nearly every month.

Mr. Al Qamzi said many illegal drivers had funds to help their fellow drivers to pay their fines.

“It’s not something new and has been there for a long time," he said. “We see people paying Dh 5,000 to Dh 10,000 because they’re making a lot of money to cover the amount. But when their cars are confiscated, it would now be more difficult for them to work."

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