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Kuwait upholds fines for mobile use in cars

Despite effectiveness of reducing fatalities, lawmakers complained the rules were ‘not fair’

Gulf News

Manama: Kuwait’s interior ministry has indicated that it would not revoke a decision to impose fines and impound cars if their drivers are caught holding mobiles or not wearing seat belts.

The decision announced earlier this month was first applied on Wednesday and hundreds of cars were taken away to be impounded for up to months.

However, several lawmakers voiced their anger with the decision and threatened to escalate their protest and grill the interior minister.

While the ministry said that the decision has enormously helped reduce the number of fatalities on Kuwait’s roads, the lawmakers said that the campaign was not fair and that the action against violators should have been gradual.

Reports emerged that the ministry responded to the lawmakers’ demands and that the decision to impound cars would be shelved.

However, on Sunday, the ministry said that the impounding measures against drivers using mobile phones, not wearing seat belts, parking on pedestrian crossing or sidewalks and on motorcycle riders would be maintained.

The only exceptions to impounding cars would be humanitarian cases involving senior citizens or women, the ministry said.

“Our goal is to protect people from traffic accidents,” Fahad Al Showai, the ministry’s assistant undersecretary for traffic, said at a press conference. “The application of the decision had positive results since the first day since the number of accidents fell from 375 on Tuesday to 264 on Wednesday. The number of parking violations went down from 4,000 to 150.”

The official refuted claims that the impounding meant to help a towing company make more benefits with the increase of its activities.

“We had a tender for towing companies with ample parking space to keep the impounded cars and to ensure their security. It was all done within the state legal framework. The Ministry of Interior is fully committed to applying the law in every phase of the process,” he said.

Al Showai said the impounding was from two days to two months and depended on the type of violation.

“Each case is treated separately and the record of the driver is significant in deciding the length of the impounding,” he said.

The official added that 63,000 vehicles were impounded in 2016 and that there were no protests about the process.

However, MP Riyadh Al Adasani said that he would grill the interior minister if the decision to impound cars was not revoked.

“I have full respect for the minister, but I tell him ‘Buckle Up’ because the parliament did not grant any immunity to any minister. If [Interior Minister Khalid] Al Jarrah is re-appointed in the next cabinet, I will give a grace period of a few days and if he maintains the decision, I will quiz him,” the lawmaker said.

“We all support the application of the law to reduce traffic accidents, but the law should be applied in a civilised way and in line with the constitution. It should be applied gradually or through imposing fines or through court trials.”

A caretaker cabinet is now running Kuwait’s urgent affairs following the resignation of the government on October 30.