Tougher traffic penalties set for debate
Manama, January 28, 2014
A controversial traffic law in Bahrain that includes tough new penalties moved a step closer towards implementation yesterday (January 27).
Shura Council members spent four-and-a-half hours discussing the 64-article bill, which could see punishments quadrupled as part of government plans to get tough on motorists who put the safety of other road users, passengers and pedestrians at risk, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
But they did not have enough time to complete their discussions, which will continue next week.
The council's foreign affairs, defence and national security committee recommended a controversial article granting police the right to decide which expatriates to get driving licences, according to their profession and other criteria, be scrapped as it was "unconstitutional" and discriminatory.
Shura Council members also called for a reduction in some of the penalties for driving offences, saying the law was simply too strict.
They want to see massive fines earlier unanimously approved by parliament set as maximum penalties and the size of punishments determined by the seriousness of the offence.
It would be left to the judge to determine the punishment, whether a fine, jail sentence, or both, from a new range of punishments drawn up.
A points system could also be introduced under an amendment agreed by the council with the Interior Ministry.
Council foreign affairs, security and national defence committee chairman Dr Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa said toughening penalties for traffic violations was necessary given the recklessness of drivers on Bahrain roads.
"Bahrain's roads have been a major cause for deaths of drivers, passengers and pedestrians and for that punishments have to be toughened," he said.
Council women and child committee head Rabab Al Arrayedh said the layout of Bahrain's roads encouraged people to commit violations, but described the proposed fines as "extreme."
A lot of people, especially expatriate labourers, earn BD100 ($262), so the minimum punishment of BD20 that the council has introduced is a lot compared to their income," she said.
But council legislative and legal affairs committee head Dalal Al Zayed said motorists' complaints about the fines should be disregarded.
"Money is nothing compared to life and with tough punishments people will learn to be disciplined - saving themselves money and at the same time ensuring that their lives and those of others are protected," she said.
Council chairman Ali Saleh Al Saleh claimed Bahrain was a role model in the Gulf for traffic practices, but had become unsafe due to the leniency of its traffic laws.
The new draft traffic law has been pending for six years and will replace existing legislation dating back 35 years.
Some of the new punishments include jail terms of up to six months and fines of up to BD500, or both, for deliberately jumping a red light.
If such an offence causes death, injury or damage to public or private property then the punishment goes up to between three months and 12 months and a fine of between BD1,000 and BD3,000, or both. - TradeArabia News Service