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Traffic law on long road to taking effect

Traffic law on long road to taking effect

By Wassim Mroueh

The Daily Star


 Traffic violations in Lebanon come in all shapes and sizes. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

 A long-awaited traffic law that increases the punishments for a variety of road safety violations went into effect more than a month ago.

But the law is still far from full implementation, in large part because executive decrees and other steps are needed to make many items active. “We need some time to train our personnel and give them new instructions,” said a source from the Internal Security Forces, who described the new law as “revolutionary.”

The new law replaces one from 1967, and was published in the country’s official gazette in October. It imposes progressive fines and stricter punishments for violators.

The source said the law will “contribute to reducing traffic accidents to a large degree in the coming months,” but added that implementation will require joint efforts by the government, the Internal Security Forces, and civil society organizations.

The law stipulates the formation of a National Committee for Road Safety headed by the interior minister, and a National Council for Road Safety led by the prime minister. Neither has been formed.

The source said that the ISF plans to form a Road Unit that will work on better executing the law. “We need to recruit new personnel [for the unit who will work with] members currently handling traffic,” he said.

There are other parts of the law that need further work. Joe Daccache, an official at the road safety organization YASA, dubs the new law one of YASA’s major achievements.

“We have been working on it since 2005 in cooperation with Parliament’s Public Works, Transport, Energy and Water Committee and other specialized committees,” Daccache said.

“The test lies in implementation ... there are some articles [in the law] that require executive decrees,” he explained. Most of the decrees must be issued by ministers.

All passengers must now wear seatbelts, whereas previously this was only required in the front of a vehicle. “These changes require executive decrees,” he added.

Daccache said he believed the government “has the intention” to implement the law, although it might have other priorities at the moment.

Under the new system, each driver begins with 12 points. Points are lost with violations, with the number lost determined by the seriousness of the violation and its dangerousness. Upon the loss of all points, a driver loses his driving license for six months.

Violations are divided into five categories, with category five prompting the harshest punishment.

Category one includes 26 violations such as the use of sirens by civilian cars. Violators must pay a fine of between LL50,000 and LL70,000.

Category two includes 123 violations, with fines of between LL100,000 and LL150,000. Breaches include passengers with heads or bodies partially outside the car, sitting on top of a car door, and tinting their windows.

For category three, fines range from LL200,000 to LL350,000. Among the 97 violations are: the use of a mobile phone while driving, washing or fixing a car that is parked on the road, not using a seatbelt, and motorcycle drivers or passengers not wearing a helmet.

The 40 category four infringements, which incur a fine of LL350,000 to LL450,000, include ignoring traffic signs, not using lights at night, and driving against traffic.

The most severe offenses, which incur a prison sentence of one month to two years and fines from LL1 million to LL3 million include exceeding the speed limit by 60 km/hour, driving without a license, and driving with a blood alcohol level of more than one gram per liter of blood.

Under the previous rules, speeding tickets were set at LL50,000, and those caught driving without a license simply had to pay a minimal fine.

Authorities have taken only modest steps to implement the law. Beirut’s acting governor, Nassif Qaloush, issued a letter Thursday banning barriers on public property without municipality permission. He gave violators one week to remove such barriers.

There has already been a problem with a section that stipulates all imported cars must have certificates of roadworthiness from their country of origin.

Car importers were unable to take possession of their cars from the country’s ports over the past few days, even though they had arranged for them to be imported before the law was published in the official gazette.

Elie Azzi, the head of the Association of Importers of Used Cars, told The Daily Star Friday that Interior Minister Marwan Charbel gave the importers permission to test the cars in the Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon ports, and they should receive their cars within 48 hours.

YASA’s Daccache, whose group recently visited the ISF's central traffic monitoring room for Greater Beirut, said there were positive signs regarding monitoring traffic in the country.

“The team [at the monitoring room] there is doing a great job,” Daccache said, adding that surveillance cameras will soon be installed on the mountain road leading from Nahr al-Kalb to Faraya in Kesrouan.




A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 08, 2012, on page 3.


Beirut , Traffic Law

Date: 12/28/2012 2:30:42 PM

By: YASA WEB , The Daily Star
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