Manama: Qatar authorities have impounded 20 Saudi-registered cars at a border checkpoint after their drivers failed to pay traffic fines that in some cases reached 190,000 Qatari riyals (Dh191,685.)
Most of the fines were recorded by radars for speeding on the highway between the Abu Samra border post and the capital Doha, a distance of around 100km, Saudi and Qatari media reported.
Other offences by Saudi drivers included illegal parking and jumping red lights.
A report in Saudi daily Okaz this week said that a note from the Qatari traffic authorities called for 42 Saudi-registered vehicles that broke the law on several occasions to be impounded.
In one instance, a motorist was booked 408 times, according to the daily, although a Saudi site said that the highest figure of violations by a single car was 643.
In Doha, media reports said that the drivers of the 42 vehicles had committed 5,337 traffic violations and that they were due to pay fines worth 2.660 million riyals.
Saudi drivers at Abu Samra said that they were shocked by the exorbitant amounts they had to pay to get their cars back, even after the Qatari authorities decided to halve the fines.
“In many cases, the car is not worth more than 30,000 Saudi riyals and the driver is asked to pay 100,000 riyals after the 50 per cent discount suggested by the Qatari authorities,” a driver was quoted as saying.
Another Saudi driver told local news site Al Ihsa that he was not aware of the amount he had to pay for his Qatar traffic violations.
“I was shocked when I was told by the passport officer in Qatar that there were traffic offences and that I needed to contact the directorate to pay them,” the driver who was not named said. “I was even more shocked when the traffic officer there told me that my violations amounted to 124,000 Qatari riyals and that I had to pay them if I wanted to avoid having my car impounded,” he said.
Another driver said that he drove into Qatar, where he had business interests, regularly on a weekly basis.
“I have never noticed that I had broken the traffic law,” he said. “However, when last week I wanted to drive into the country, I was told to pay 189,000 Qatari riyals in unpaid fines. I tried to explain that I was not aware of the violations and that I never received anything to inform me about them. They impounded my car and said that I would get it back only after paying the fines,” he said.
The situation has prompted several Saudi citizens to call for better coordination between the traffic authorities in Qatar and Saudi Arabia to ensure that drivers become instantly aware of their violations and pay their fines on time.