The Interior Ministry’s assistant undersecretary for traffic affairs Major General Abdullah Al-Muhanna expressed optimism about achieving easy traffic flows despite the fact that 1.8 million vehicles are being driven on 800,000 vehicle-capacity roads.
Muhanna added that traffic jams will happen with the beginning of the school year and that traffic police would work on preventing them, though the total number of vehicles is continuously increasing. “We are coordinating with the police patrols and public security to ensure easy traffic flows,” he underlined.
On another concern, Muhanna strongly denied any intentions to increase traffic fees collected from expats for renewing driving licenses or vehicle registration to hundreds of dinars or banning expats from owning more than one vehicle. “Such reports are completely untrue and what happened is that two suggestions were submitted to the interior ministry – one of them suggesting increasing these fees by half and the other suggesting increasing the fees collected for some services by up to twofold,” added Muhanna, noting that reasonable fee increases would be imposed on both citizens and expats, but they will never reach hundreds of dinars.
Muhanna also criticized the spread of what he described as rumors about taking some decisions against expats. “Nobody is after expats. They are part of this nation and play a role in achieving development. They are highly appreciated and the ones that are criticized are those who break the disrespect the law, which will not be tolerated with anyone,” Muhanna reiterated, reminding that over 300 expats have been deported in six months for driving without licenses despite warnings and public awareness media campaigns organized by the ministry.
Responding to a question about expat driving license validity, Muhanna said that those who got their licenses before the new decision of linking its validity to residency validity would continue their ten-year validity period unless they change their profession. Muhanna also noted that a committee formed by the interior ministry undersecretary to investigate manipulating the issuance of driving licenses had reported back recommending withdrawal of many ‘illegal’ licenses and referring employees responsible for their issuance to the legal affairs department. “The report also recommends developing the automated system to prevent manipulation and having more control by heads of sections,” he added.
Speaking about the amount of traffic fines, Muhanna stressed that they are no longer effective as some grounded drivers have been applying to the traffic department to pay off all fines and undo the blockade. “This proves that fine values are no longer a deterrent,” he said, noting that 200 traffic-related deaths, including 79 citizens, happened in the past six months and that many young citizens were paralyzed or handicapped as a result of such accidents. “This is why we need more deterrent fines,” he said, pointing out that 27,000 citations had been filed for driving at a speed of over 120 km per hour in the safety lane, where the maximum speed is set at 45 km per hour.
Muhanna also said that in implementation of the Audit Bureau’s orders and protecting public funds, automated traffic systems had been programmed to collect old unpaid traffic fines from ministries, embassies and companies. On confiscated and impounded vehicles, Muhanna stressed that the company running the five detention parking facilities had informed the traffic department that the full capacity has been reached with 38,528 vehicles already impounded. “That is why we have temporarily stopped impounding vehicles until we find another place”, he said.