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Saudi Arabia: Road Safety Is In The Interest Of All

26 December 2016

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Following the announcement in August of this year by the Director of the Traffic Department Maj. Gen. Abdullah Al-Zahrani warning all motorists and their passengers to strictly abide by the traffic rules and stating that the Traffic Department ''will not show any leniency in implementing new regulations'' that have been passed by the Council of Ministers, the local social media scene exploded with concern about the extent and severity of the penalties to be imposed.

Some claimed that fines in excess of SR 6,000 would be enforced on a single violation, while others claimed that jail sentences would be handed out to errant motorists. There were also claims that vehicles of irresponsible motorists would be impounded and driver licenses confiscated.

Many who sent in comments seemed to be criticizing the severity of the punishments. The fact that people were more concerned about the penalties than about encouraging each other to drive safely was puzzling. A concerned individual, Jussi, a long-term Finnish resident in Jeddah. was alarmed enough to send me his feelings on such skewed thinking.

He was reading a blog on Facebook where mainly women were discussing perhaps getting tickets for not wearing seatbelts and some had negative opinions on the issue. My Finnish friend felt that he had to respond to these writers and this is what he wrote:

''As many locals are commenting on this, I wish to make an additional comment here! I am an educated sports medicine specialist whose biggest task is to prevent accidents. At one point I worked in motor sports at the Honda Racing Corporation.

''Accidents are one thing that happens! The question is when, not if. I remember saying at one time that I would never be involved in a traffic collision. Two hours later the car was upside down in a deep ditch and one passenger was lying in the hospital. If your question or argument here is 'how much is the ticket?' then you do not get the picture.

''I once saw a program that talked about the earlier race cars that were built of steel. In accidents, the cars were okay with little damage, but the men inside usually died. Today in such accidents, the cars are basically destroyed, but the race drivers stay alive. Why? Because they are wearing seatbelts! The cars are designed to take the impact and protect! But you have to be in your safety seat and wearing your seatbelt.

''As a professional, I hate to see the ignorance of parents on Saudi roads when little children are everywhere but in their safety seats in cars. The sad thing is that when accidents happen, and they do, the baby is paralyzed for life and people say that was the will of God, but do not realize, that this was not His will, but something the adult parent did, or did not do.

''If you love life, protect it when in a vehicle. Your life, but first and foremost your children's, if they are in the vehicle with you. Recently, in Finland, four young teenagers crashed in a car. The authorities could not even figure out who the driver was; three died at the scene, the fourth shortly thereafter. None of them had his seatbelt on.

''In an accident, you can prevent the worst if you as the driver can still control the car, but if you have people flying onto your lap or obstructing you since they were not wearing seatbelts you simply cannot do that! Please take some free and genuine advice. Wear seatbelts! Put your children in their safety seats because accidents can and will happen! Jussi''

Jussi's sentiments reflect a rational thinking that every parent and motorist must adopt. Rather than getting bogged down with the extent of penalties, the focus must shift toward prevention in the first place, and beginning with oneself and the family would be a good starting point. Road safety is in the interest of all.

The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena


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