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It’s a fact of life that many of us are becoming ever more aware of the environment, and the impacts that our road travel has on it.
To this end many people enjoy the practical and environmental benefits of taking public transport when appropriate.
Still others “lift share”, driving together in groups when all parties are heading for the same destination.
Likewise, expats in Oman are not immune to this “lift sharing” philosophy, which can not only save passengers money but also make travelling a far more sociable and enjoyable experience.
What could possibly feel more natural than giving your friend a lift to the shops, or picking up your work colleague on your way to the office?
At the same time, a number of recent reports suggest that the Omani police are working hard to cut down on such activity, though the reasons for this odd new policy are only just coming to light.
In recent years the Omani government claims that an increasing number of expats have been supplementing their incomes by operating as unofficial taxi services for others. Not only is this denying legitimate taxi drivers income, but also private vehicles often do not offer the same level of safety as properly licensed vehicles.
It seems that the Omani government has now unofficially decided to start taking action on such situations, with the goal of weeding out the genuine “lift sharers” from the unofficial (paid) taxi drivers. Sadly, a number of expats seem to be getting caught in the crosshairs of this battle.
To this end it has become clear in recent times that some police officers are stopping vehicles driven by expats, and carrying passengers, in order to try and dissuade them from acting as unofficial taxis.
Sadly, while the intentions of these police officers may be good, it seems that a growing number of expats have ended up being penalized simply for dropping a friend off at the airport or driving back from a shopping trip with family.
Stopped by police enforcement officers, a number of expats have failed to convince officials that they are simply “lift sharing” with a friend for practical rather than financial reasons. A number of such incidents have resulted in expats receiving on-the-spot fines for operating as commercial yet unlicensed taxis.
Complaints have been aired and now the Omani police force has responded. According to recent reports this new practise certainly isn’t “official policy” and is not in response to any new law. A senior police officer has now gone on record to state that “there is no rule that penalises an expatriate if he is providing a ride to a friend or relative in his private vehicle”.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly of all, individuals that have received fines in the past are now able to reclaim this money if they can “prove” their innocence, though quite how this should be done remains open to debate.
The message here is clear; expats are fully entitled to give lifts to friends and family, as in most other countries. Assuming no payment has been made between the different parties, there is no reason why a fine should be issued. In the few unfortunate situations where this has happened recently, the individuals affected should now be able to reclaim the funds in question.
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