Saudi Arabia clamps down on motorists who commit violations

Saudi drivers take a flooded street in Jeddah, in this on November 21, 2017 file photo. (AFP)
Updated 06 March 2018
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Saudi Arabia clamps down on motorists who commit violations

JEDDAH: “I’m driving. I’ll call you later.” This will perhaps be the most common SMS message to spread from now on, as the Saudi General Department of Traffic (GDT) on Monday started imposing fines on unbuckled motorists or those who use cellphones while driving in three major cities.
The GDT had earlier announced that it would add a number of violations to its automated traffic-monitoring system (Saher). The system began spotting violators in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam on Monday. Violations will be recorded against vehicle owners or those officially authorized to drive them. It added that SMS messages would be sent to violators’ mobile numbers. The GDT has also called upon all motorists and passengers to comply with all rules tailored for the safety of road users.
The new violations include allowing children to sit in the front seat, not giving priority on the road and improper use of the horn. Drivers who commit one of these violations will be fined to an amount ranging from SR150 to SR300 ($40 to $80).
Over the past seven days, the GDT has clarified on its Twitter account that drivers will also be penalized for driving with a front-seat passenger not wearing a seatbelt. Audiovisual material shows that using seatbelts can reduce deaths and severe injuries in an accident by 50 percent.
The material also shows that using a cellphone while driving is responsible for 60 percent of traffic accidents in the country. However, the GDT made it clear that drivers can use any audio headset or external speakers to make calls while behind the wheel. The GDT excluded those using cellphones while their vehicles are static at traffic lights.
It denied a rumor that a tissue box on the dashboard of the vehicle would be considered as a violation.
The GDT asked drivers with objections or dissent to visit a traffic violation dispute committee at their nearest traffic department to make a complaint and receive the final word about a violation.
Hisham Al-Huwaish, a social media activist, told Arab News that the regulations have been made for our own safety and we have to remember that traffic rules are always there to protect us against danger.
“The only problem people will face is the addiction to using cellphones while driving, but this bad habit will disappear within days,” Al-Huwaish said.
As for the use of cellphones, Al-Huwaish, who is also a TV presenter, said if he was forced to drive without his seatbelt fastened, he would desist from driving. “Buckling up has become part of my life, and I cannot imagine driving without fastening my seatbelt. It has become a habit, and so will stop using my cellphone,” he added.
Al-Huwaish pointed out that he, as a celebrity, always sends awareness messages to his Twitter and Snapchat followers, reminding them about safety on the road.
Mohammed Al-Shareef, a schoolteacher, told Arab News that it is not too late to save our sons’ lives, and it will never be. “It is a decision that we have waited long for. The situation has worsened to the extent that you see many young people using cellphones chatting with friends while driving.”
GDT is working on listing invalid vehicle insurance as another violation to be recorded by the Saher system.
Car accidents in 2016 killed 9,031 people, 12 percent of the 70,000 deaths in the Kingdom in that year, with an average of more than 25 deaths a day and one death an hour. The rate of increase is the highest since 2007. The number of accidents in the same year increased by 2.8 percent compared with 2015 — from 518,000 to 533,000 — causing more than 38,000 injuries with an average of 4.5 an hour and 103 a day, according to an Aleqtisadiah newspaper report based on the data of the General Authority for Statistics and the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.
Between 2006 and 2016, 78,487 people died in car accidents, constituting 12 percent of deaths in the Kingdom in the same period.


US’ Mnuchin says talk about sanctions premature, will visit Riyadh to meet with counterpart

Updated 59 min 49 sec ago
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US’ Mnuchin says talk about sanctions premature, will visit Riyadh to meet with counterpart

JERUSALEM, Oct 21 : US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday it was premature to comment on possible US sanctions against Saudi Arabia for the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi until an investigation had been completed.
Mnuchin said information so far on the investigation was “a good first step but not enough” as Riyadh faced increasing international pressure over what happened to Khashoggi, who disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
US President Donald Trump, who has said the United States would consider sanctions against Saudi Arabia, emphasized on Saturday that he was not satisfied with the Saudis’ handling of the case.
“It would be premature to comment on sanctions and premature to comment on really any issues until we get further down the investigation and get to the bottom of what occurred,” Mnuchin told reporters in Jerusalem.
Mnuchin confirmed that he would not attend a Saudi investment conference on Tuesday. However, he said he would visit Riyadh as planned for talks with his counterpart on joint efforts to counter terrorist financing and plans by Washington to reimpose sanctions against Iran in November.
“I did not think it was appropriate to go and speak at this conference but we continue to have important issues with Saudi and that is why I am going there,” Mnuchin said.
The visit, he said, was necessary as Washington prepares to reimpose sanctions against Iran.
He said he had no reason to believe that Saudi Arabia would renege on commitments to make up for any shortfall in global oil supplies as Iranian oil exports are curbed under the sanctions.
“I have no reason to believe that they are not going to honor those commitments,” said Mnuchin, who will meet Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih while in Riyadh.