Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1366, (26 October - 1 November 2017)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1366, (26 October - 1 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Traffic concerns

A proposed new traffic law is raising concerns over implementation, writes Nesma Nowar

 

The new law aims to alleviate congestion and reduce road accidents
The new law aims to alleviate congestion and reduce road accidents

The cabinet approved a new traffic law last week, the first since 1973, that aims to reinforce traffic discipline, improve road safety, and reduce the number of accidents on Egypt’s roads.
 
The law has been referred to the State Council, before it is sent to parliament for discussion and approval. It introduces a points-based system, in which drivers will be granted a total of 50 points. Depending on the type of violation, points will be deducted from this total under the new law in addition to a fine.
 
Should a driver lose all his points as a result of violations, his licence will be suspended for 30 days, after which he will need to enroll in an accredited driving school to regain his licence.
 
Though the details of the law have not yet been revealed, it will reportedly rely on an electronic ticketing system for traffic violations, under which violations will be registered electronically.
 
At a press conference last week, Transport Minister Hisham Arafat said that the bill would replace the current traffic law issued in 1973, which was last amended earlier this year. Arafat said that the country needed new traffic laws as many developments have taken place since the 1970s. The country’s population had tripled from 37 million in 1973 to 104 million in 2017, and the number of vehicles had risen to some 9.4 million in 2016.
 
Arafat added that the new law takes into consideration the high number of traffic accidents in the country. More and more people are being killed every year because of road traffic accidents, and the country now loses about 12,000 lives due to such accidents each year.

As a result, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has ranked Egypt among the countries with the highest morbidity rates in the world in its Global Status Report on Road Safety, which assesses road safety conditions in 178 countries.

Egypt has a road traffic fatality rate of 42 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the WHO. The number of road accidents in 2016 increased 1.1 per cent to 14,710, compared with 14,548 in 2015, according to statistics released by the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS).

A total of 5,343 people were killed and 18,646 were injured as a result of traffic accidents in 2016, while 21,089 vehicles were damaged.
 
Road accidents also have economic costs. A 2014 study by the World Bank said that the country’s traffic conditions cost the economy LE47 billion annually, with that number projected to rise to LE105 billion by 2030.

The study revealed that almost four per cent of Egypt’s GDP is lost due to traffic congestion, which considers the cost of time wasted (50 per cent), delays (31 per cent) and costs for health (19 per cent).

Impressions from Cairo drivers of the new law were mixed, with many of them remaining sceptical about its implementation. “The existing law already has tough penalties, but it is not being implemented,” complained Nour Ahmed, a mother who drives her children to school every day. “Everybody is talking on their mobiles while driving.”
 
“I’m not sure if we have the electronic infrastructure to allow the flawless application of a points-based system,” said 31-year-old Mahmoud Gamal. “Without proper implementation, no change will be felt on the ground,” he added.

Gamal’s concerns regarding the proper application of the law were reiterated by drivers and experts alike. Ebtehal Shawki, a road safety expert, voiced her concerns regarding the implementation mechanisms of the new law, wondering about the need to develop an electronic system.
 
“We need more details about how the law will be applied and how the registration process of traffic violations will take place. The most important thing is the implementation of the law and not the law itself,” Shawki told Al-Ahram Weekly.
 
Meanwhile, she said that a new traffic law was a step in the right direction because Egypt needed laws that could accommodate the new roads and changes that had taken place over the past 40 years.
 
She said that it was important for the law to be applicable. It should not entail penalties for going in the wrong direction where there were no proper signs saying which that direction was, she explained. “There should be adequate street signs to facilitate the implementation of the law,” Shawki said.
 
Said Teama, a member of parliament’s Transport Committee, criticised the law for its hefty penalties that might push drivers to circumvent the system. In a TV interview last week, Teama said that the new law was styled after that of Dubai, where the system is automated and different from that in Egypt.
 
He said that a points system could be applied in countries that had electronic systems in place, which was not the case in Egypt. The current system in Egypt is largely dependent on traffic officers who register violations, and this could cause errors and pave the way for circumventions.
 
Teama also questioned the driving centres that drivers would need to go to should their licences be suspended. He said that discussion of the law should have taken place before its approval by the cabinet.

The new law contains 95 articles and classifies traffic violations into five categories.

Violations in the first category will deduct one point, including not following traffic rules, not having a driver or vehicle licence during driving, and smoking in public transport vehicles, among others.

Second-category violations will deduct two points, including using mobile phones while driving, not wearing a seat belt, lack of child restraints, and the excessive use of a car’s horn, among others.

Third-category violations deduct three points, including driving a vehicle with an invalid licence, exceeding speed limits by no more than 30 km/h, not using the front and back lights of a vehicle, and stopping on the roads at night, among others.

Fourth-category violations will deduct four points in addition to suspending a driving licence until the driver undertakes a course on traffic awareness over five days at an accredited driving centre.
 
Fifth-category violations will deduct five points in addition to suspending the driving licence until the driver undertakes a course on traffic awareness over 10 days.

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