Dubai traffic law essentials

Time Out Dubai has your guide to living in Dubai. Find out about getting jobs in Dubai, setting up home in Dubai and Dubai traffic laws and essentials.

Area Guides, Living in Dubai
Area Guides, Living in Dubai

Everything you need to know about staying safe and within the law on Dubai’s roads.

The essentials
• Children under ten are not allowed to sit in the front seat of your car. Anyone sitting in the front two seats must wear seatbelts.

• There is zero tolerance on driving under the influence of alcohol, regardless of the amount.

• Mobile phones are not to be used while driving.

• Changing lanes without indicating is illegal, as is flashing a car in front to get them to move out of the way.

• Keep your vehicle registration card with you at all times to show to police. You can be fined for not having this if you get pulled over or are in an accident.

• Stick to the speed limit. On the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highways, the limit is 120km/h with an allowance of 20km/h. Check your speed between residential areas: the limit is between 20 and 40km/h.

• Don’t make any kinds of gestures. If someone cuts you up on the road, the worst thing you can do is gesticulate at them in a way that could cause the person offence. If you’re reported, you could be fined, arrested and even deported.

• Be careful at zebra crossings. Under UAE law, drivers should give way to pedestrians, but often don’t.

Road safety
During the first nine months of 2014, 131 people were killed on Dubai’s roads, an increase on the 127 who died during the same period in 2013. This figure, a rate of one death every 50 hours, is concerning, with myriad factors behind the accidents. Statistics from Dubai Police revealed that 90 percent of these incidents were caused by sudden swerving or failure to observe a safe distance between vehicles. Other factors included jumping red lights, lack of sleep and excessive speed. But Dubai Police is taking the issue very seriously and runs regular safety awareness programmes.

Speeding is a serious problem on Dubai’s roads, with 90 percent of accidents causing 90 percent of accidents, according to Dubai Police statistics. The casings for Dubai’s speed cameras are managed by the RTA, which is said to have installed 450 radar stations and 230 intersection camera stations in a bid to reduce accident rates. The cameras themselves are installed by Dubai Police. In addition, the RTA has launched a system to monitor the city’s cabbies, meaning they are now fined after two warnings about excessive speeding.

Wearing a seatbelt became mandatory by law in Dubai in 1996, although this still only applies to front seat occupants. While all children must be in the back, there are no rules on child or booster seats – or having to be seated at all.

Salik is Dubai’s automated toll system. With no booths, gates or barriers, it is designed to keep the city’s traffic flowing. There are tollgates on Al Garhoud and Al Maktoum bridges and Sheikh Zayed Road. You must get a Salik tag for your car, which will automatically deduct Dhs4 from your prepaid account each time you pass through a toll gate. You can get these from selected petrol stations, as well as local banks like Dubai Islamic Bank and Emirates Bank. If you go under a toll with no credit on your account and don’t top up within two days, you’ll be fined Dhs50 for each toll you went through.

Don’t worry, though, you’ll receive a helpful SMS when your account balance is low, and you can top up online, buy a top-up scratch card from any petrol station or add credit via SMS. If you are renting a car, check your agreement to find out how the rental firm expects you to pay for tolls. For further information, visit

Vehicle insurance
Generally, car dealers and rental firms will sort out car insurance for you, and quotes are pretty competitive. Ask whether the deal covers the entire region or just the UAE. Insurance restricted to the UAE will be cheaper, but if you’re planning a trip to Oman, for example, you’ll need extra coverage. If you are under 25 or have only held a driving licence for a short time, your insurance premium will likely shoot through the roof.

Many areas in the city have introduced paid parking in a bid to reduce congestion, but prices are reasonable. Paid parking is only operational at peak times (8am-1pm and 4pm-9pm), plus it’s free to park outside of these hours and on Fridays or public holidays. You’ll be fined Dhs200 for illegal parking, Dhs150 for a ticket that isn’t displayed properly and Dhs100 if you exceed your time limit. If you are in a rental car, the hire company will generally pay any fines for you and charge them to you at the end of your lease. Owners of Dubai-registered cars can also use the mobile parking service that allows you to pay for a virtual parking permit via SMS.

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