The fear of traffic tickets

The fear of traffic tickets

Ibrahim Badawood

Ibrahim BadawoodBy Ibrahim Badawood


COINCIDING with the Gulf Traffic Week, a road safety awareness campaign was carried out in all regions of Saudi Arabia. Such events activate the role of the private and public authorities in warning and spreading awareness about the risks of reckless driving and ignoring road safety rules.

With about 7,000 deaths and 40,000 debilitating injuries in the Kingdom annually, road accidents are one of the major causes of death in the country.

As part of efforts to bring down road accidents, an electronic surveillance system called Saher was introduced on Saudi roads about seven years ago.
Saher cameras record violations such as speeding and running of red lights.
The system sparked a big controversy in Saudi society with the public split into two camps. One group blindly supported the Saher system and hailed its benefits while the other staunchly opposed the way violators are punished with hefty fines. The opponents of the measure particularly criticized the policy of doubling the fine amount if its payment was delayed by a few days.

The traffic department does not rely solely on Saher surveillance these days. It lately intensified road safety campaigns by letting police officers spread out all over cities to detect violations such as wrong parking, failure to fasten seat belts, cell phone use by drivers and other violations that cannot be detected by Saher cameras.

Whenever a police officer registers a violation, a ticket is sent to the driver or vehicle owner through a text message. This system made motorists shudder at the thought of violating traffic rules.

Some people took advantage of this fear by spreading rumors about traffic police checking MVPI stickers and issuing fines for failing to renew periodic vehicle inspection certificates.

As a result, the MVPI centers have become crowded with unusually long lines of vehicles waiting to carry out inspections. Some unscrupulous mechanics used the opportunity to make quick money by offering to temporarily fix even serious defects in vehicles to deceive the inspectors.

This is despite the traffic department’s denial of rumors about imposing penalties for expired vehicle inspection certificates. Yet many people expressed their fear about accumulating penalties because of their inability to pay fines in today’s adverse economic circumstances.

The fear of motorists is justified especially because the traffic department behaves like public utility companies when it comes to collecting traffic fines. Whenever someone is issued a ticket by traffic officer with or without justification, he has to pay the fine first before raising any objection or the amount of fine will double. This is like the utility companies asking consumers to clear the invoices before making objections on discrepancies found in them, or face the disruption of service.

The situation of traffic violators remains the same: pay first and then complain, or the penalty will double, which means one must bear the punishment even if the verdict on his violation is still unknown.