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Yemen police target motorcyclists

Yemen’s roads have been in poor condition since uprising against president Ali Abdullah Saleh

Gulf News

London: Yemen police are bringing into effect strict traffic regulations to reduce the increasing number of motorcycle-related accidents.

The Ministry of Interior’s recent figures show that motorbikes were responsible for the death of 478 people last year and injured 3,357. Motorbikes also ran over 43 pedestrians across the country.

According to traffic officials, these regulations include marking motorbikes and requiring bikers to wear protective helmets, while punishing those who violate traffic laws.

Colonel Mohammad Shaher Yafouz, Aden Police traffic chief, told Gulf News that the increase in motorbike accidents was partly attributed to the increase in the number of vehicles in Yemen’s narrow and unmaintained roads.

As the political stand-off in the country has made its mark on all sectors, Yemen’s roads have been left in poor condition since the beginning of the uprising against the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in early 2011.

In some cities like Sana’a and Taiz, protesters are still camping out, blocking some streets. The official said that the congestion of cars in the streets lead some drivers to travel in the wrong direction to avoid traffic jams.

Col Mohammad said: “In some districts, a third of the streets are blocked due to the continuing protests. Motorcyclists drive in the opposite direction which causes bloody head-on collisions with vehicles.”

Another reason cars pile up on the streets is hawkers who use the roads to sell their goods.

“We applied many measures that considerably reduced the number of motorbike accidents. These measures included arresting and punishing careless motorcyclists, expanding and refurbishing roads, deploying more policemen and increasing the number of traffic lights.”

Col Mohammad admitted that police cannot effectively monitor roads due to a lack of money.

One of the regulations makes it mandatory for motorists to wear helmets. But police will face a serious challenge in convincing thousands of motorists who are unaccustomed to wearing a helmet.

Khalid, a motorcyclist from Aden, said traffic police and motorbikes are to blame for the accidents. “If police captured those who violate traffic laws and regulated traffic in the streets, we would not have so many traffic accidents. People are committing violations because of the absence of police regulation.”

Khalid suggested that police launch an “all-out” campaign to seize unlicensed and unregistered motorbikes and cars.

“This will enable police to easily catch violators of traffic regulations. The government should take advantage of technology to catch those who violate traffic regulations and reduce the number of police in the street.”

Khalid said sometimes he has to go with the flow when it comes to violating traffic laws.

“I am in favour of any regulation that controls traffic chaos. I violate traffic laws inspired by the nationwide lawlessness.”

Omar, another biker from Aden, said that using a mobile while driving and carrying more than one pillion passenger makes the biker lose control.

He said that the government should spread awareness among people about traffic laws and impose strict laws on traffic violators and ban using mobile while driving.

There is no accurate number of motorbikes, but thousands of them roam the streets of Yemen cities.

The other aim of new regulations is to control and easily identify motorbikes that have become a lethal instrument used to carry out assassination attacks on security personnel. Last year, masked assassins riding motorbikes killed 40 officers and injured dozens.