السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
|Under New Law, Using Mobile While Driving Is a Punishable Offense
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News
|JEDDAH, 8 November 2007 — Making mobile phone calls, reading newspapers or holding small children in laps while driving will become punishable offenses under the new traffic law.
Violators will be fined up to SR500 for the offenses, said Maj. Gen. Fahd Al-Bishr, director general of the traffic department.
He said the new traffic law passed by the Council of Ministers last Monday would help reduce road accidents in the country. Last year alone, about 5,000 people were killed in accidents, he pointed out.
Al-Bishr said the new law, which mandates tough punishment for joyriders and denies a driving license to those convicted of taking or dealing in drugs, would come into effect in six months.
A Supreme Traffic Council for setting out traffic policies will be formed at the Interior Ministry. “The formation of the council will help take decisions to resolve traffic problems as well as enact new rules and regulations to cut down accidents that take valuable lives every day,” said the traffic chief.
Al-Bishr said the department would begin issuing new vehicle number plates with three letters and four numbers from Nov. 11, 2007, adding that the new number plates will have several security features. “People will not be able to imitate this number plate or remove it from the vehicle in order to install it on another,” he explained.
The department has instructed vehicle owners that they have to use the screws given along with the plates to install them on their cars. “If they use other screws, they will lose the security features,” he said, adding that the department has issued guidelines on how to install the new plates.
“We have also instructed the motor vehicle periodic inspection (MVPI) centers to make sure the new number plates are properly fixed on the vehicles before giving them the pass stickers,” Al-Bishr said. Field officers will also check how the new number plates are installed, he added. There are more than seven million vehicles registered in the Kingdom.
Al-Bishr said the new traffic law was finalized after it was studied by King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology, the Traffic Safety Committee, the Transport Ministry, the Public Security and the Shoura Council. The Supreme Traffic Council will include six ministers, he said. “This means their ministries will implement the decisions taken by the council.”
He said the new law had given the interior minister more powers to enact regulations in order to deal with modern developments. The new law allows the establishment of traffic courts to look into traffic violations and punishments. The courts will have the authority to reduce or cancel fines and other punishments if they wish to do so.
The Cabinet allowed existing agencies to look into traffic disputes and violations until the establishment of traffic courts. Individuals convicted of causing full or partial injury to a person during accidents will be jailed for up to a year and fined up to SR10,000 or given either punishment, but without affecting their private rights.
During the last five years, traffic departments have registered more than 1.36 million accidents causing the deaths of 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.
Al-Bishr said the new law, as well as the previous one, does not mention that the driver must be a man. “The law speaks about the driver without specifying the sex,” he pointed out. However, he said the owner of the car would be questioned if it were driven by a woman or a child without a valid driving license.