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End of the road for free-spirited Saudis

November 7, 2007 11:00 by

Saudi Arabia, driving

The driving experience in Saudi Arabia is about to become a whole lot less free-spirited: the traffic department says it now plans to stop people making mobile phone calls, reading newspapers or holding small children in laps while driving.

The good news for freedom-loving motorists, according to Arab News, is the new traffic laws are not expected to be in place for another six months, and even then the maximum fine will only be $134. No word on fines for reading a newspaper and driving with a child on your lap. Then taking a call.

Arab News says 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, says Maj. Gen. Fahd Al-Bishr, director general of the traffic department.

The moves are part of big push on road safety. Al-Bishr says there will be new tough laws for joyriders, bans for those caught taking or dealing drugs and new tamper-proof vehicle registration plates.

“People will not be able to imitate this number plate or remove it from the vehicle in order to install it on another,” he explains. “If they use other screws, they will lose the security features.”

There are more than seven million vehicles registered in the Kingdom. 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 $5.6 billion.

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