Traffic Violators, Beware of Speed Cams
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News

JEDDAH, 31 January 2008 — Bad drivers and violators of traffic regulations must now consider carefully before running red lights or speeding. Their actions will soon be monitored automatically by speed cameras, which are being installed on roads and highways all over the country.

The Interior Ministry has already signed agreements with three Saudi companies and their international partners from Malaysia, Spain and Singapore for the installation of electronic systems to monitor violations on highways and at major intersections.

Maj. Gen. Fahd Al-Bishr, director general of the traffic department, said the project was being implemented as part of efforts to modernize traffic systems and to cut down the increasing number of traffic violations and road accidents in the Kingdom.

The move, according to experts, is essential to control traffic and make road transport safer and secure. According to one study, vehicles in Riyadh make 5.5 million trips daily and the number is expected to increase to more than 15 million trips by 2021.

During the last five years, traffic departments have recorded more than 1.36 million accidents that caused 21,900 deaths and injured 122,600. In 2004 alone, 5,168 people died and 348,100 were injured in 293,200 accidents across the country.

Al-Bishr said cameras would be installed in Riyadh, Qassim, Makkah, Jeddah, Madinah, Eastern Province, Tabuk and Asir.

Omar Qassim Al-Esai Telecom and Satellite Services with the support of its Malaysian partner will cover the Riyadh and Qassim regions in the first phase. Dallah Al-Baraka, which is allied with a Spanish company, will provide the service in Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah. Afandi Trade, Industry and Contracting, with the support of two Singaporean companies, will cover other regions.

“We selected the companies after inviting tenders,” said Al-Bishr. “The project will be implemented first on selected roads,” the traffic chief said, adding that the Interior Ministry in coordination with other government agencies would launch a public awareness campaign before implementing the system.

He said the companies would inform drivers about their violations by phone or any other means. “Drivers will have the right to object to the violations that have been recorded against them,” he added. Cameras will record license plate numbers of violating vehicles, which will then be passed on to the data center.

The payment of traffic fines is essential for completing procedures at the Passport Department such as the issuance and renewal of passport, iqama (residence permit), civil status card, vehicle and driving licenses, issuance of visas for non-Saudis and recruitment of foreign manpower. However, violators’ dependents — wives and children — will be excluded from this law.

“The new project will help identify and locate cars wanted by police, including stolen cars and cars driven by suspected criminals,” said Al-Bishr. The project is expected to improve the behavior of drivers. He said the companies would not have any role in fixing the fines for traffic violations. “That would be done by the Interior Ministry in coordination with the Finance Ministry.”

According to the agreement, companies will train the ministry’s officers in implementing the project. The experimental operation of cameras installed in Riyadh and Jeddah has been successful.