Tuesday, 29 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki
Jeddah - Starting in April drivers will no longer be allowed to use their mobile phones while on the road in an attempt by the Ministry of Interior to decrease the 5,000 annual traffic related deaths. Violating this new law would result in a fine of up to SR150.
Captain Abdullah Al-Qahtani, director of Jeddah Traffic and safety specialist, said the fines would help make the streets of Jeddah safer.
"The new fines would reduce (excess mistakes) that contribute to an increase in traffic accidents and would then increase safety on the road." Al-Qahtani said.
He added that fines were a solution but not the panacea, as we need to assess community response instead of dealing with the same treatment. "Unfortunately, every day we hear about incidents." Al-Qahtani emphasized that most fatal accidents occur when drivers text message while they drive.
Drivers who use hands-free devices such as Bluetooth technology and wired headsets would not be subjected to fines.
"The drivers we are concerned about are the ones who have their mobile phones in their hands while they drive. We are attempting to increase awareness with a new campaign for the next 180 days." Al-Qahtani said.
The new fines will not only be limited to mobile phone usage. Reading newspapers and holding infants in drivers laps will be embodied in the new fines.
Maj. Gen. Fahd Al-Bishr, director general of the Traffic Department said the new traffic law passed by the Council of Ministers last Monday would help reduce road accidents in the country.
The Interior Ministry will form a Supreme Traffic Council, which would oversee the formation of traffic policies throughout the Kingdom.
"The council will help make decisions to resolve traffic problems as well as enact new rules and regulations to cut down accidents saving lives every day," Al-Bishr said.
The new law had given the interior minister more powers to enact regulations in order to deal with modern developments. Under this provision new traffic courts will be set up where traffic violations can be contested. These courts will have the authority to review and cancel fines on a case by case basis.
Over the last five years, 1.36 million registered accidents occurred in the Kingdom, killing 21,900 people and injuring 122,600 others. Every minute at least 11 traffic violations take place in the Kingdom. Annual material losses from road accidents are estimated at SR21 billion.
According to the www.cnn.com web site over 43 countries around the world have already banned mobile phone use while driving