BEIRUT: Some Lebanese drivers are hopeful that the new traffic law, set to go into effect April 22, will reduce congestion and bring down the number of deadly accidents. Others are less optimistic.
“I haven’t noticed any changes in people’s behavior on the roads ahead of the implementation of the new law,” an employee at the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Dora said Tuesday evening.
“I have a car but I mostly drive my motorcycle for work because it’s easier to use, especially in traffic,” he said. “Motorcyclists in Lebanon are not used to wearing helmets [or] respecting traffic laws.”
Articles 18 and 279 of the new law stipulate that a motorcycle can be confiscated if the rider is not wearing a helmet.
Security officials said they would initially target major offenses, and will gradually crack down on other infractions dictated by the law. During the first phase, from April 22 until April 30, violations such as speeding, driving under the influence and reckless endangerment will be penalized.
A taxi driver who works in Beirut and Metn told The Daily Star that he hadn’t been informed of the details of the new law, but has heard that violators will be forced to pay large fines.
“Drivers will have to either wear a helmet or have the seat belt on, they will have to be more respectful and have their proper documents with them at all times,” he said.
“I think the new law is very good, but it needs to be implemented so there will be less traffic in Lebanon.”
Stopping his car on the side of the Dora roundabout, another taxi driver expressed frustration at the new legislation. “What is this law for exactly?” Touma asked. “People don’t know anything about it and there hasn’t been enough information given to help drivers learn to abide by its rules or realize its importance.
“The [government] shouldn’t just implement new laws for people – roads, signs and street lighting need to be fixed as well.”
A Public Works and Transport Ministry official said missing traffic signs would be replaced on highways and major roads around the time the law goes into effect next week.
Touma, whose father was also a taxi driver, expressed concern for drivers of older cars, which do not have seatbelts. “My father used to drive a car with no seat belt in it,” he said. “They do not make those anymore, but what about vintage cars still on the roads today, will the law be applied to them as well?”
One bus driver, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed, “This new law and its huge fines are another way for the government to get money from the people.”
At Beirut’s Charles Helou Terminal, two men, exhausted from long hours of driving, rested by the side of the road. Sipping from a plastic cup of coffee, Ahmad Fayyad spoke of Lebanon’s neglected roads and excessive traffic, saying he hoped the new law would bring order and justice. “This is the best law ever,” he said. “But we’ll see if it’s going to be implemented for everyone equally, without favoritism prevailing, as it always does.”
His friend, Abu Rabih, agreed, adding that he hoped the new law would result in fewer accidents. “Most of the crashes on the roads are caused by people using their smartphones while driving,” he said. “We need this law in order to decrease the large number of fatal accidents.”
In Downtown Beirut, a taxi driver picked up a construction worker heading to the Cola roundabout. “Before implementing the new law, the government should work on improving the roads in Lebanon. We need better lighting, fewer potholes and less traffic.”