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As the road carnage mounts, Lebanon steps on the brakes

As the road carnage mounts, Lebanon steps on the brakes

By Weedah Hamzah Nov 14, 2010

Beirut - Drivers are suddenly respecting speed limits, taxi drivers are wearing seat belts and almost everyone is stopping at red lights.

Can this really be Beirut?
New measures ordered by Interior Minister Ziad Baroud to trap traffic violators went into effect last week. It is a matter of urgency as 750 people were killed and 10,000 others injured in traffic accidents just since 2009, in a country with a population of just 4 million.
Radar equipment, which also includes portable speed detectors, has now been set up on every highway in Lebanon, capable of detecting several other types of traffic violations, including running a red light.
The General Directorate of Internal Security Forces reminds people via radio and mobile messages that the maximum allowable speed is 100 km/h on highways and 50 km/h inside cities unless otherwise posted.
While the fine for speeding, under the current law, is about 33 US dollars, it could reach a maximum of 3,500 dollars depending on the seriousness of the violation, under a new law expected to be passed next year.
The new bill will also include jail and banning motorists from driving for up to six months depending on the violation of the speed limit.
Traffic laws are violated every second in Lebanon. Drivers do not fear going against traffic or backing up on a highway. Stop signs, one-way streets, pedestrian crossings, and red lights are totally ignored. Policemen too.
People and even children rarely use seat belts and sometimes infants are seen sitting on a parent's lap in the front seat or even on the driver's lap.

The traffic lawlessness scares most foreigners.

'Lebanon is the jungle state of traffic violations,' said a French tourist.
Although there are no reliable official statistics, private groups, like the YASA Organization (Youth Association for Social Awareness), compile their own statistics by following reports of traffic accidents in the media and the Red Cross.
These unofficial figures indicate that at least 750 people have died as a result of traffic accidents, and around 10,000 have been injured, since the start of 2009.
Ziad Akl, the founder of YASA, a youth group which works to raise people's awareness about road safety, expects that 'the rate of traffic accidents in Lebanon will rise between 20 per cent and 25 per cent in 2010 if things stay as they are.'
Given that Lebanon has the worst record in traffic accidents in the Arab world, Akl said adopting the new traffic law was an emergency as it would greatly help to reduce the road carnage.
'There is a need to strictly and continuously enforce traffic laws on all citizens and a need for a neutral body to evaluate the efficiency of the vehicle inspection standards to confirm that they comply with international inspection standards,' Akl said.
He also stressed that people should also be aware of their own responsibility in respecting traffic laws and regulations in order to ease the burden on the government.
'People should not speed or jeopardize their own life or the life of others because of their recklessness and then blame the government for it,' he added.
Interior Minister Baroud is determined to try to change Lebanese motorists' driving habits, for their own good.
'Road safety is a fundamental problem, and that is why we're implementing such strict measures, especially after we see that the number of casualties in traffic accident is increasing year after year,' he commented.
Baroud stressed that 88 per cent of traffic accidents in Lebanon result from driver error.
'This means that 88 per cent of accidents could have been avoided if the mistake hadn't been made as a result of excessive speed, drunken driving and failure to obey traffic laws and traffic lights, or driving on the wrong side of the road,' he said.

Lebanon , Traffic Law

Date: 11/15/2010 4:12:40 PM

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